February 09, 2009

Don't mess with Bud!: ESPN's Scott Van Pelt was suspended because of comments about baseball commissioner Bud Selig he aired about on his radio show.

posted by jjzucal to baseball at 11:27 AM - 19 comments

I just listened to the audio. My conclusion is that Van Pelt (is it Scott or Linus?) is correct in much of what he says, but the pimp references were completely out of the bounds of good taste, They also lent nothing to his argument that Selig is overpaid and underperforming. I found his comparisons of Selig's image and performance to those of David Stern and Roger Goodell to be somewhat of the 'apples and oranges' variety. True enough that Goodell and Stern can act the 'tough guy', but they aren't up against a union as powerful as the MLBPA. Also, there are obvious problems with both NBA and NFL officiating. Both display a marked lack of consistency from crew to crew, game to game, and even possession to possession. Stern and Goodell have not yet addressed these problems, while Selig's umpires at least are recognized as providing the best officiating in professional sports. I believe the NHL officials are in that category too, but that's neither here nor there. The point is that Van Pelt screwed up good, honest, and accurate criticism by personalizing it, and thus gave the four-letter network the excuse to hammer him. Now ESPN can placate Mr. Selig and remain in his good graces by pointing to their actions against Scott Van Pelt.

posted by Howard_T at 11:54 AM on February 09

Van Pelt certainly had a point but unfortunately stepped way outside of making it. He deserves to take a breather from his job and refocus on being a better sports journalist.

posted by dfleming at 12:26 PM on February 09

I just listened to the audio. My conclusion is that Van Pelt (is it Scott or Linus?) is correct in much of what he says, but the pimp references were completely out of the bounds of good taste

Oh stop it! I listen to the SVP show on a daily basis and he is by far, one of the most intelligent, informative and funniest people on radio today. I heard this segment about Bud Selig and granted, it was a bit much but it was funny. To understand SVP's sense of humor, you have to actually listen to his radio show and not just an excerpt to 'get it'.

posted by BornIcon at 01:06 PM on February 09

To understand SVP's sense of humor, you have to actually listen to his radio show and not just an excerpt to 'get it'.

That's not really an excuse for crossing a line between actual journalism and tasteless insults though, is it?

posted by dfleming at 02:04 PM on February 09

I'm not sure what about that was crossing the line giving the state of sports radio. Most likely it was the particular status of the target.

posted by bperk at 02:26 PM on February 09

That's not really an excuse for crossing a line between actual journalism and tasteless insults though, is it? Tasteless insults? Where did that happen? Do you even listen to SVP's to accuse him of saying anything remotely as a 'tasteless insult'?

For the love of God, he was joking and if you don't listen to his show, you wouldn't understand.

posted by BornIcon at 03:15 PM on February 09

Wait a minute. Is he being suspended for distastful comments, or for criticising Selig? Because if it's the latter, then that's troubling. I've felt for some time the the WWL is getting too comfortable with tearing down athletes without fear of reprisal while at the same time felating the powers that be in the big sports. That's bullshit right there. Athletes are free game, but the executive body is free from attack? Pure crap.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 04:49 PM on February 09

Wait a minute. Is he being suspended for distastful comments, or for criticising Selig?

I think he is truly being suspended for the latter, but the public rationale is the former. What he said, to me, is not beyond the pale, or suspension worthy. I do think some of what he said was in poor taste, and I say that without knowing anything about Van Pelt or his show -- contrary to BornIcon, I think you can form an opinion about whether something is in good taste largely divorced of the context and an understanding of what someone's style or sense of humor is. I personally did not find it offensive, but I'm not going to say that someone else could not legitimately find it offensive.

posted by holden at 05:04 PM on February 09

For the love of God, he was joking and if you don't listen to his show, you wouldn't understand.

Scott Van Pelt, for all the wit and intelligence you give him, apparently forgot rule #1 of being a broadcaster: as much as your opinion is what brings people to listen to you, you've got a corporate responsibility to those who pay you to talk for them not to fuck around with the people they're in business with. He made a crack comparing Selig to a pimp, obviously a joke, but you just don't do that. He was on company time and made a snide remark that he shouldn't have.

This isn't an issue about whether or not journalists have the right to say what they want, it's whether or not they have the right to say what they want when they're getting paid to do so. ESPN pays Van Pelt to be entertaining in a way that is conducive to their ratings and their business partners; he didn't do that and that's why he's been suspended. (Note: not fired, reprimanded).

posted by dfleming at 06:22 PM on February 09

Also, there are obvious problems with both NBA and NFL officiating. Both display a marked lack of consistency from crew to crew, game to game, and even possession to possession. Stern and Goodell have not yet addressed these problems, while Selig's umpires at least are recognized as providing the best officiating in professional sports.

This is probably true... but mainly due to the fact that there isn't really all that much happening at one time in baseball. Most of the time all 4 umpires are watching the same play. In football, each ref has to watch their own zone on the field because there could be penalties occuring at any place on the field at any time. Same goes with basketball. Maybe even more so because of the size of the players vs the size of a basketball court. It's crazy for someone to think that referees can get it right 100% of the time. Basketball and football are played at a much faster pace than baseball. In baseball the only people in play are, the pitcher, the batter, and any baserunners. So at the most, you would have 6 people to watch with 4 refs.... In football you have 22 people to watch with 4 refs, and in basketball you have 10 people to watch with 3 refs... No disrespect to baseball but everyone knows that it's main problem (besides rampant steriod abuse by its stars) is the fact that it's sooooo slooooowww.

posted by docshredder at 06:58 PM on February 09

This isn't an issue about whether or not journalists have the right to say what they want, it's whether or not they have the right to say what they want when they're getting paid to do so.

I don't see how you can divorce the two. Journalists are paid to say things for public consumption. If they're saying it at a party where no one can hear, what's the point?

ESPN pays Van Pelt to be entertaining in a way that is conducive to their ratings and their business partners; he didn't do that and that's why he's been suspended. (Note: not fired, reprimanded).

I don't totally agree - it's a fair point about the freedom that should be enjoyed by a company, but I just think they have additional responsibilities. Sports isn't just entertainment; it has elements of race, culture, big business, public dollars and another issues that cross into the realm of mature discussion. ESPN seems to only enjoy selective controversy. As long as they're 'hard-hitting' when it comes to outing the sordid details of an athlete's personal life - they're journalists; but when it comes to levying some criticism at the sports powers that be - they're in the entertainment biz. '

I'm not a fan of this. I think it's hypocritical.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:56 PM on February 09

I don't see how you can divorce the two. Journalists are paid to say things for public consumption. If they're saying it at a party where no one can hear, what's the point? Scott Van Pelt wants to do a piece on scandal at ESPN; should ESPN pay him to tarnish their image? There is something that you take on when you sign a contract with a corporation; you'll operate in a manner that is conducive to the reputation of the corporation. Right or wrong, it's what did Phelps in at Kellogg too. It's not explicit what you can/can't do but the corporation has a right to stop you from doing things which hurt it. ESPN isn't an indie newspaper; it's a major player with involvement at the highest level of sport. It has a right to protect its place there and do well by the rest of its employees, stockholders and business partners. Van Pelt's right to speech isn't being violated here; it's his right to be paid to speak. Big difference. Hell, if Scott Van Pelt wants to get real with the people, he'll quit his job today and start a website. The journalistic model is different now; he's built a reputation and a following in the traditional media which he can use to secure his place on his own.

posted by dfleming at 09:32 PM on February 09

Editing your comment seems to permanently strip line breaks from your comments, I apologize for the way that looks.

posted by dfleming at 09:36 PM on February 09

Still, dfleming, what you are describing may be the correct business model, but it is an unethical business model for a news organization. If the NY Times has a deal going with google, are any stories about google offlimits? Do they have to deal gingerly, and not treat it as any other story? I think the answer from a journalistic ethics point of view would be absolutely not. If you are saying that ESPN doesn't care about journalistic integrity if it affects their bottom line, then I think that is a defense of them that they would not like.

posted by bperk at 09:07 AM on February 10

While I may not agree with dfleming, he does have a point.

Now, I do listen to the SVP show on a daily basis and I was hearing the show when he made the "pimp cup" reference and I actually laughed about it. I never thought that he overstepped the bounderies of good taste because since I do listen to his show on a regular, I'm guess you can say that I'm used to SVP's sense of humor. There was never any malice towards Bud Selig when he said that, he was just making a joke, a dumb one but still a joke.

The problem that I have with this is that even though it was intended as a joke, what if he was really criticizing Selig? Will ESPN further reprimand an employee for the sake of not making the top execs upset? ESPN is a sports news channel and the news should be reported, regardless of who the news is about. People need to stop taking themselves so damn seriously and laugh at themselves from time to time.

If I was Bud Selig and reportedly made $18 million, I would be laughing all the way to the bank.

posted by BornIcon at 11:04 AM on February 10

Now I guess the questions are:

Is Scott Van Pelt a journalist?

Is ESPN a news organization?

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:56 PM on February 10

Now I guess the questions are:

Is Scott Van Pelt a journalist?

Is ESPN a news organization?

Well, regardless what he is, I just know that he's back on the air.

YEEEESSS!! Pimp cup is back baybee!!!

posted by BornIcon at 03:11 PM on February 10

apologies, but i must digress... silly question:

about 3 years ago I heard Scott Van Pelt on PTI predicting the British Open as Stephen A Smith. it was hilarious, it was genius.

have any of you SVP listeners heard him do the impression on his show? I have a feeling SAS might have put the kibosh on it, but i am holding out hope.

posted by setlasmon at 04:56 PM on February 10

have any of you SVP listeners heard him do the impression on his show? I have a feeling SAS might have put the kibosh on it, but i am holding out hope.

Fret not. Stephan A. Smith was on the Tirico & Van Pelt Show as a replacement for Mike Tirico about a month ago and SVP actually did his SAS impression and SAS laughed his ass off. SAS told SVP that he felt honered that he was being impersonated and told SVP to keep doing it.

HOWEVA!

posted by BornIcon at 08:12 AM on February 11

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