(Getty Images)Bob Knight refused to say "Kentucky" during weekend segments on ESPN, drawing criticism from media critics who believe Knight's actions harm college basketball and warrant a full independent investigation.
The former Indiana coach referred to top-seeded Kentucky as that "team from the SEC" while avoiding uttering the proper name of the school on Saturday. Knight has never hid his disdain for the Wildcats or his antipathy toward coach John Calipari.
ESPN refused to comment on the situation.
Judging by comments from respected media critics like Richard Deitsch, I must be the only one who finds this amusing and doesn't think Knight's juvenile behavior besmirches ESPN's credibility. This is mainly because I long ago stopped harboring delusions about ESPN's credibility.
[ Pat Forde: Kentucky still going strong on run for title ]
The network pays billions of dollars in rights fees to sports leagues that its supposed to objectively cover and this is the ethical conundrum that bothers people? As far as Bristol's egregious conflicts of interest go, Knight not saying "Kentucky" barely rates. There's a long line of people who don't like John Calipari. They're just better at hiding it than Bob Knight.
I can see where people like Deitsch are coming from. In theory, Knight is supposed to be an impartial observer and commentator. "[His] de facto refusal to say the name of a certain SEC school is the kind of petulance I'd expect from a seven-year-old denied a second cup of chocolate ice cream," Deitsch wrote.
Or Bob Knight. That's the petulance you'd expect from Bob Knight! "Season on the Brink" came out more than 25 years ago. We all know what to expect from Knight by now. Thinking that ESPN shouldn't be in business with a bully is one thing (and that's where I think most of this sentiment comes from). Making this the reason to throw him out is another.
Knight isn't there to be an impartial observer of college basketball. He's there to be himself. That's why he gets a paycheck. ESPN puts up with him wearing windbreakers to games and criticizing players because of who he is and what he's done in the sport. Awful Announcing says that no other analyst would get away with not saying Kentucky. Of course they wouldn't, they aren't Bob Knight! This is what he does. ESPN can (and does) pull ex-athletes off the street and hands them an open microphone. Bob Knight's is put in front of him because he's a legend who doesn't give a damn what you think about him.
If a viewer watches Knight and thinks he's presenting an unbiased opinion, that's their own fault. They're probably the same people who watch Fox News or MSNBC and think they're getting a fair take on the news.
It doesn't matter what his motives are either. Whether he didn't say "Kentucky" because he thinks Calipari is slimy or because Brent Musburger bet him $2,500 that he could go a whole segment without saying it is irrelevant. Knight speaks his mind. There isn't a phony bone in his body. We need more of that of in sports media.
I don't want to live in a sanitized sports world where everyone minds their Ps and Qs and adheres to Bristol's undoubtedly huge book of rules and regulations. I like that Bob Knight is out there ripping John Calipari. When you watch Kentucky play on CBS this weekend, Calipari's vacated titles and shady recruiting practices will be glossed over. That's a far more egregious journalistic sin.
Keep doing your thing, Bob Knight. He can get a little too negative at points, but he's a refreshing voice that makes you smarter about the game you're watching. He's worth listening to. The next time 99 percent of college basketball analysts do something interesting on ESPN, it will be the first.
But forget all that for a second. What I want to know is, who was watching ESPN on Saturday? The network doesn't have rights to the NCAA tournament. Even SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt acknowledged that nobody should be watching.
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