By Steve Czaban Special to Published Mar 07, 2007 at 5:25 AM

Since ESPN is the undisputed World Wide Leader (and undisputed champion) in televised sports in America, there needs to be some critique of the things the network does. Otherwise, "Bristol One" will run amok, unchecked by any sort of journalistic integrity.

Oh wait. It does that, anyway. Anyhow, on with the critique...

Why is Michael Smith being "positioned" as one of their NFL experts?

Have you noticed that this "weak stick" from "Around the Horn" has been given lots of on-camera commentary spots when it comes to NFL news and moves? They are careful not to call him an "NFL expert" or "insider" because -- hello, he's NOT! But, they are propping him up as if HIS opinions on NFL roster moves actually carry weight. I don't get it. Nothing against the guy personally, but this has been bugging me immensely. Does ESPN think we are stupid enough to just say: "Oh, Michael Smith says it was a good move for the Texans to sign Ahman Green, so it must be so?" How can ESPN not find an ex-player or current NFL beat writer / national writer to make commentary on this?

Will Kirk Herbstreit backpedal?

I remember at the peak of Troy Smith mania, Golden Boy Kirk went on air and said in no uncertain terms that the Browns would be CRAZY if they didn't select Smith with their top pick in the 1st round. Now, with the Incredible Shrinking Buckeye's draft stock sinking like the Lower Ninth Ward, I haven't heard much from Herbie. I'd be dying to put a camera in his face and ask for his thoughts now.

Playing Favorites

Okay, I get it. ESPN likes to promote sports properties it owns a play-by-play interest in. It's fair, and it makes sense. But, you can overdo it. In case you didn't figure it out, the NHL and PGA Tour are no longer ESPN properties. Witness their reduced "profile" on the network news, highlight and other shows. Meanwhile, enjoy endless spoonfuls of stuffed turkey on Arena Football and NASCAR -- two of ESPN's newest properties. I mean, seriously. Arena F'ing Football!! Enough already. Enough.

Staff re-assignments

Now that Stephen A. Smith's evening talk show "Quite Frankly" has been cancelled (and I can't wait for that and "Bonds on Bonds" to show up on "Cheap Seats" -- one show that is sorely underrated and under-promoted on that network) the suits have to find a way to eat up the remaining minutes on his (surely lucrative) contract. So, what do they do Sunday? Pair him in the "SportsCenter" slot with the ultra-white, decidedly un-hip Bob Ley. Oooohhhh... kaaaaayyyy. Not sure that's gonna work out. Nice try, though.

Credit where it's due

Last week, the Washington Redskins e-mailed season ticket holders urging them to "stay tuned" to all weekend long in order to stay up to date on all the team's free agent signings. OK. So I'm sitting on my arse Saturday night and I see that Fred Smoot has signed with the ‘Skins. How? It was on the ESPN crawl! I rush over to, feeling stupid that I hadn't "stayed tuned" to the official website for this news, and guess what? The story was nowhere to be found! I kept checking back in until I went to bed, and still nothing. Why have an official team website and claim to be first with all the news, and then get scooped by the ESPN crawl?

The eternally evolving "NBA Matchup" show

Maybe I'm the only one watching this train wreck, but it seems that I am up on Sundays in my office at home, doing random work while keeping this on in the background. I first noted that the original version (Fred Hickman, Kiki Vandeweighe and some ex-player so bad I've forgotten who it was) has been replaced by the more competent version (John Saunders, Tim Legler and Jamal Mashburn). But, the show is still incredibly weak. Where they should spend time explaining the intricacies of NBA offensive sets, with terminology and film breakdown, they instead traffic in generalities and, lately, features on players. Ugh. It's like they are showing even LESS actual play "breakdowns" than before. There's a real fascinating gold mine of stuff a properly-produced NBA show could reveal to the average fan, but this show is shooting an air ball.

ESPN "The Weekend"?

OK, I get it. You guys own Disney, or Disney owns you. Synergy. "Hey, come to our amusement parks! Look, it's Chris McKendry!" There's a sports bar down here! Yada, yada. I ask ESPN this much: Given how many people ALREADY go down to Disney, is this cross-promotion really worth it? Just because "you can" doesn't mean "you should."


Steve Czaban Special to

Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.