Mike Breen doesn’t give many takes, which might be why he’s almost universally beloved. But that doesn’t mean the renowned play-by-play voice doesn’t have takes to give.
Breen joined the latest episode of Dan Le Batard’s South Beach Sessions podcast. And during the interview, which was extensive, emotional, and entertaining, Le Batard got Breen to give a strong opinion about the state of journalism, specifically the media’s tendency to be overly theatric in their criticisms.
As Le Batard touted Breen’s fundamental decency and long career in media, the podcast host surmised, “It must be bothersome to you to watch what sports coverage has become.”
“I hate it,” Breen quickly replied. “Journalism has become criticism and I hate that, that people feel they have to be critical to be considered a good journalist or to be a good analyst. And there’s so much out there that it’s difficult to put yourself in their positions.”
“We all make mistakes. I make mistakes on the air, players make mistakes on the court and it’s just become too critical. And it’s not just having to be critical, it’s the words that are used in the criticism. I’ve always felt, I’ll criticize somebody, but I’ll only use words that I would say to their face.”
“Why do you have to crush people while you criticize them?” Breen asked. “There’s a respectful way to do it and I think a lot of people have gotten away from that and that bothers me.”
Breen’s not wrong. Sports media is filled with hosts and analysts who are constantly attempting to be more outrageous than their competition, which often results in the slinging of insults and slander. The need for attention in media is not served by kindly telling a team, coach or athlete how they can improve. Earlier this week, for example, Stephen A. Smith referred to Nikola Jokić as a “big tub of lard” on First Take, this amid fans complaining the Denver Nuggets star center is unfairly covered by the national media.
And broadcasters are not devoid of being criticized themselves. Although as the lead voice of the NBA, Breen has managed to avoid many of the criticisms that nearly every national broadcaster faces. Breen did, however, witness plenty of harsh commentary earlier in his media career while working with the late Don Imus, one of the most polarizing radio hosts in America.
As for his current NBA on ABC coworkers, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy, they might not always be as respectful as Breen would like, but they are hardly the worst culprits when it comes to being rudely critical. According to Breen, the criticisms Jackson and Van Gundy boast during a broadcast often come from a love of the game.