Thursday, December 22, 2011

Justified Sports Hatred: Craig James



Jesse Craig James (who wisely chose to go by his middle name) was a sportscaster for ESPN/ABC and a former star college and NFL running back.  He attended Southern Methodist University and was a part of the famed 'Pony Express' team in the early 80's that won 3 Southwest Conference championships (and arguably should have won a national title in 1982).  

Along with Eric Dickerson, James was one of the best running backs in college football.  In 1982, he was named the NFL rookie of the year and was an integral part of the New England Patriots '85-'86 Superbowl season. In 1989, James retired from being pretty good at football and became a professional broadcaster/complete tool.

Oh yeah, James is also a "sports writer" (quotation marks deserved), but we'll get to that in a minute. The following are just a few of the many reasons that Craig James is reviled by many college sports fans and his other fellow broadcasters.


James strikes out against my team; dirty secrets are revealed.

My first experience with James' unique brand of awful was in 2007 during an improbable run by the University of Kentucky...in football.   The Wildcats were 6-1, ranked #8 in the country, and had just defeated the #1 ranked LSU tigers in triple overtime. There was one lone voice of dissension, however, that REALLY did not agree with having the Wildcats ranked in the top 10. 

James (who is one of the voters for the AP Top 25) actually moved Kentucky down to 24, with the next lowest vote from anyone being 16.   As Kentucky fans are wont to do when they feel that their team has been wronged, myself and many others did some digging on Mr. James. As it turned out, there was some interesting information about the man to be found on the interwebs.

Craig James attended SMU in the midst of the school committing incredibly serious violations that ended with the Mustangs being the only college football program to ever receive the dreaded death penalty.  Despite proof that many players were being paid by the university, James denied any wrong doing. A quote from his book about his college playing days states:

"Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you I never received a nickel during my playing days. But I can say with certainty that no benefits were ever extended to me from anyone associated with the SMU administration."

I guess we should give him the benefit of the doubt (despite his tacet admission that he did take money from someone), but there's just one little problem with that:  

The booster that set up the slush fund that was used to pay players was named Sherwood Blount.  He established the fund in 1981, which means it was being used while James was helping to lead the Mustangs to an undefeated season. When James left SMU and went pro, guess who his agent was: Sherwood Blount.  

It's not that much of a stretch to assume that this probably means James was receiving money while at SMU, as well. Combine that with his carefully parsed statement about never receiving money "from the administration," and you have a real lying and cheating villain to focus your anger towards.



                                                    blog.chron.com
His attempts at looking 'down to earth' by
wearing a cowboy hat were enough on their own.


The righteous anger at James that I and my fellow Kentucky fans felt was short lived, however, when our team lost 4 out of their next 6 games, including an embarrassing home loss to Mississippi State.  

Despite the fact that the AP Top 25 is supposed to be a week to week snap shot of the best teams in the country, maybe James doesn't see it that way. Maybe he looked at it as an overall picture and a way to predict how things would be at the end of the season. If that was the case, than philosophical disagreements can arguably be trumped by the fact that James was right; we didn't belong in the top ten.

Little did I know that James' minor slight towards my school would be nothing compared to his inept broadcasting and personal vendettas that would end up making him once of the most hated broadcasters and sports personalities in the country.


Craig James helps gets a good coach fired

Texas Tech signed Craig James' son, Adam, at his father's behest/insistence.  Despite being physically gifted, Adam James showed a very poor work ethic and lack of respect for the coaching staff that neither head coach Mike Leach nor his position coaches could overcome. Things came to a head one day when Adam showed up for practice with a concussion. He slowly walked around the field in sunglasses and street clothes, which was against team rules (all players are to dress out at practice and participate as best they can if injured). When Leach asked why James was wearing sunglasses, the team trainer told him it was because James' eyes were sensitive to light.  

Leach then told the team's trainer to have James go inside somewhere out of the light, like the media room, where there was a stationary bike that he could ride. Leach and the trainer also specifically instructed Adam James not to go into the electric closet, which he later admitted that he knowingly did (under oath) and shot this video.  He also texted his dad about hiding in the storage closet because he thought it was "funny".

This led to Craig James getting very angry and going into full helicopter parent mode. After much "consideration and prayer" (which apparently didn't include asking God about facts), James went after Mike Leach's job, claiming that his son had been forced to practice with a concussion and locked inside of an electrical shed for 3 hours. He even  hired a PR firm to help in his crusade against Leach. Worst of all was that ESPN allowed James to use the network to falsely report about his allegations against Leach on air.


                                    barracudapost
Reports that James wore this hat while 
off the air could not be confirmed or denied.


Texas Tech fired Leach for "mistreatment of a player", despite evidence that the boosters just didn't want to pay him his upcoming/large salary bonus or extend his contract. The Red Raiders were 11-1 the year before and 9-4 the year that Leach was fired. He had the support of many former players, alumni, and the university. But in the end, James' whining (through an ESPN bullhorn) combined with some stingy boosters who were looking for a reason to fire the coach led to Leach's dismissal.


Once again, Craig James is a terrible AP voter

Being an SEC football fan, it absolutely killed me to watch Boise State defeat the University of Georgia by 2 touchdowns in what essentially was a home game for the Bulldogs. Still, I have to give Boise State credit for actually showing (again) that they are for real...

...which is much more than Craig James will ever do.  A few weeks ago, James had 10-1 Boise State (their only loss being by 1 point to TCU) ranked 24 in his Top 25 (there's just something about that number with him). His top 25 included having Georgia at #11 and multiple teams with easier schedules ahead of the Broncos.   

Other teams ahead of Boise State included 7-5 Missouri and 8-4 Notre Dame. Despite many claiming that James had a bias against against the school, the AP said that they have "no reason to step in."


                                                     theoppositeofawesome
...despite James stepping in this whenever he turns in his ballot.



For some reason, the rules do not apply to Craig James

James recently announced that he is leaving ESPN (FINALLY!) to run for the US Senate (oh no...). He is running as a conservative Republican. The GOP's strong belief in fiscal self reliance will certainly fall in line with his principles of kicking and screaming like suburban soccer parent when their spoiled brat kid doesn't get his way, but I digress...

Many of us saw James running for Senate coming from a mile away, which is interesting considering that ESPN has fairly strict rules about its on air personalities expressing their political beliefs. ESPN censured Paul Azinger for criticizing President Obama on twitter. Lou Holtz got in trouble for attacking Nancy Pelosi, though to be fair, he probably just thought she was a nurse trying to give him the wrong medication.


                                  irishcentral
Get that needle away from me, you harlot!


James, however, was able to attack President Obama and espouse his political opinions on his blog, Texans for a Better America, while still employed by ESPN.  Sportsgrid does a great job at showing how it was a clear violation of ESPN's media policies, but they also have the same question that myself and many others do: Why does James get away with it when others do not?


James is a horrible sportscaster

Watch this video of James losing it like a complete tool due to his own terrible joke.  I'll wait...



Okay, so maybe he fell victim to the sportscaster giggles like so many others do. Still, at least their chortling sounds somewhat manly and not like an ostrich in heat.  

Here's another clip where he tells you not to watch the network that he works for. You can almost hear the last piece of Rece Davis' soul fade away into dust from having to sit next to this idiot every Thursday Night.

Even other broadcasters are willing to openly state how much they despise this guy. My favorite quote comes from Andy Staples. When asked which college football announcer he finds the least appealing, he bluntly and directly answers:

"Craig James, because he adds very little to the broadcast, and ESPN has sacrificed much of its journalistic integrity to protect him in the wake of his campaign to get Mike Leach fired at Texas Tech. If ESPN replaced James with any random ex-jock, viewers wouldn't complain a bit. Yet for some reason the network has bent over backward to protect James. It makes no sense".

                                                                  mkryu
Artistic interpretation of Andy Staples' analysis


Keep in mind that this is the same guy that created his own school of broadcasting and named it after himself.

Before I began writing this entry, I had trouble deciding whether or not it should fall under the label of 'Face Palm Moments in Journalsim' or 'Justified Sports Hatred'. Once I got done doing the research, I realized that calling James a journalist would be like calling vegetarian bacon a type of food:  Sure it's technically correct, but it's also a horrible abomination.


                                                            deadspin.com
Craig James:  The vegetarian bacon of sports broadcasting.


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