I touched on their quotes this morning in a different context -- Michigan's unprecedented badness and impending implosion heading into the Ohio State game -- but I wanted to come back to Chris Spielman's comments Tuesday on Kirk Herbstreit's radio show in Columbus, especially in light of the two Michigan games he's worked this year, against Michigan State and Penn State.
It's one thing to say "Michigan is bad." This is an objective statement: Michigan is 3-8. You can call them the worst team in Michigan history; Desmond Howard almost disowned his alma mater on the same show, calling the current Wolverines "Michigan Tech" and suggesting patience with Rich Rodriguez might be growing thin. Howard happens to be in a position to know this is probably true, and within objective editorial bounds. Kirk Herbstreit, who will still get excited at Ohio State games and occasionally put his bawling children on national television in Buckeye gear, is the reigning master of walking the line between a legitimate editorial statement like "Michigan is bad" and the unacceptable "I hate Michigan." Take this statement from Tuesday's show, for example:
"I think they're just looking forward to getting the season over and hitting the recruiting," Herbstreit said.
Yeah, they probably are. Michigan fans can probably agree with that. Let's get on to recruiting.
Another former Buckeye, Chris Spielman, has been calling games for ESPN for a while now, including quite a few Michigan games, especially when he partnered with Pam Ward in the early afternoon Big Ten slot before joining Sean McDonough's roving team last year. But he hasn't quite bridged that gap between passion, which comes in second to testosterone in "Things Chris Spielman Exudes," and analysis. His comments on Herbstreit's show started off alright:
"[The Wolverines] stink, they're not very good. They don't play offense ... they can't run it consistently, they can't throw it consistently, they can't stop the run, they're not very good defending the pass, they're not very good covering kicks, they're not very good returning kicks," Spielman said.
Harsh, but all legitimate editorial criticism, until we get to ...
"I love seeing them beaten down, man. It's great," Spielman said.
And thus ends (or should end) Chris Spielman's license to call any Michigan game. I like Spielman, I like his transparent love for football, I like that he still seems more like a player than an announcer and that he obviously would rather be on the field colliding with people than in a suit and tie in a booth. I think he's one of the best color guys on the network. But unless ESPN's new strategy is to openly antagonize its viewers, it can't have a born, bred and admitted hater calling the team he hates. Born and bred, like Herbstreit (a second generation Buckeye captain), fine, as long as he keeps his biases in check on the air. But an admitted hater, on a very public radio program: No.