ESPN Radio host, anti-SEC troll, fighter against the “liberal media” and their “war on football,” and noted proponent of the turtleneck Danny Kanell earned multiple nominations in our “Who should replace Skip Bayless on First Take?” discussion, and it looks like Kanell is ratcheting up his takes to new levels in a potential attempt to bolster his case for that spot. To whit, Kanell went off on Bryce Harper on Russillo and Kanell (with guest host Adnan Virk filling in for Russillo) Monday in a nonsensical rant that’s nicely transcribed and refuted by Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog. Here are the highlights of what Kanell had to say:
“I’m finding myself more and more not liking Bryce Harper, this heel that he’s become,” Kanell said. “But I don’t think it’s a role he’s playing; I think he’s being who he is, unapologetically . ‘So what, I’ll get fined, who cares.’ And I just look at him, and he does a lot of things I don’t like. I think he’s a jerk. Like, I think that’s who he is, and he doesn’t care what people think, which can be very good, and can be very refreshing to live your life that way. That’s great. But I think he has a lot of growing up to do, because I think he’s the best player in Major League Baseball, but I don’t think he’s anywhere near being the best teammate.”
…“I think for you to be a champion you have to realize you have to be a better teammate, to become a World Series champ, or to become that next level type of guy.”
…So I had this thought, and then I’m like all right well, if that’s my hypothesis, that’s my theory, that if you want to be a champ you have to be a better teammate, I’m trying to think of champions in the past, and how many of them were just an outright jerk, like hey, screw you guys, I’m gonna do what I want to do, and it worked.”
I think it’s a detriment to your team. I think especially in baseball, when it’s such a camaraderie game, where clubhouses that win, that accomplish something great, they’re clubhouses that love each other. And you saw some of it with the Papelbon incident last year, when he’s fighting a teammate. There wasn’t a ton of guys that came rushing to his defense.
…In saying I think he’s a jerk — because we all know jerks, and the saying you say about some of them is the guy you hate to play against, but you love having them on your team. I don’t even know if his own teammates say they love having him on [their] team, and that’s rough. … I see a selfish player — the best player in the game — but I see a selfish player who could be divisive within his own clubhouse, because guys are gonna get tired of it. When they’re celebrating a walk-off win and he’s more worried about getting revenge at the ump than he is about celebrating with his teammates, I think that can be an issue within the clubhouse.”
Steinberg nicely refutes this point by point, illustrating that many non-nice guys have been some of the most successful athletes out there, that plenty of teams have won despite clubhouse drama, and that most of the Nationals have been very publicly supportive of Harper and have spoken about how much he adds to the team. Moreover, it’s notable that Harper’s emotional reactions aren’t just about his own highlights, but very much about the team’s success; consider Harper’s reaction to Clint Robertson’s walk-off homer last week. Yes, Harper’s fiery and passionate, but it seems hard to say that he’s entirely selfish or that everyone in the locker room dislikes him, especially given the way teammates have publicly refuted that. If anything, he’s liked by his teammates and only hated by those who play against him. So, there isn’t really much of a case here for what Kanell’s saying, and it looks like his standard brand of provocative comments unsupported by the facts but designed to get a response. That would fit right in on First Take, so Kanell should make sure to include this one in his demo reel.
What’s particularly funny is that Virk and Kanell openly talked about Kanell’s First Take candidacy and our article discussing it later in the show Monday. Here’s the link. The First Take discussion is initially brought up about 1:00 in, then really starts slightly after 20:45. Here’s what Kanell had to say (after a promo bumper saying “Future First Take host, Danny Kanell!”):
“Okay, just so we get that clear, there is no breaking news. It’s not true. We could make one that says ‘Adnan Virk, next host of First Take’ if we want! It would have about as much truth in it.”
Virk then brings up the AA article, and Kanell asks “Did Richard Deetsch report it?” Virk laughingly corrects him “It’s Richard Deitsch,” and mentions well-known First Take critic Deitsch being suggested as a Bayless replacement as well. Kanell says “Okay, it’s not happening then,” and then says “All of them, even the people that were in my camp, if that’s what you call it, they were oozing with backhanded jabs.” They go through a few of the AA comments, and then Virk goes “In the blogosphere, people are talking about it! Your name is out there!” Kanell responds “People are not talking about it. A couple of dudes wrote a thing about what they think.”
After a further discussion, Kanell has only good things to say about First Take (around 24:30), even if he isn’t high on his own chances. “I think First Take, I mean, look, it’s one of the most popular franchises that we have here, so I think I would be flattered. It hasn’t happened, and I don’t think it will, and I don’t think I’ve been mentioned for it besides from these dudes on Awful Announcing. But I think it’s a show, I know a lot of people hate it, but a lot of people love it, and a lot more people watch it.”
Kanell goes on to say that none of his opinions are encouraged by ESPN, that disagreements “make good TV,” and that “I think it’s insulting to me that people say ‘Well, you just say things to get a reaction.’ I say things because I believe them, because I’m passionate about them.” When Virk presses him about his anti-soccer tweets, he then defends his anti-soccer tie tweets as “That’s how I feel! That is a genuine opinion on the sport of soccer! I was not trolling Leicester City.” So, according to Kanell himself at least, all of his remarkable opinions (which have seen him described as “worse than Mark May“) are how he actually thinks and feels. That may make him an excellent candidate for Bayless’ chair on First Take.