In addition to their traditional experts and pundits, ESPN’s SportsCenter featured a highly unusual one Thursday; Alabama Crimson Tide superfan and frequent Paul Finebaum Show caller “Phyllis from Mulga” (real name: Phyllis Perkins). Here’s the segment, which starts with Phyllis telling Cari Champion how great Alabama is:
She starts with “Clemson may have the edge as far as stats are concerned, but as far as a football game’s concerned, we’ve got Saban. We’ve got Sarkisian. We’ve got all of our offense. We’ve got our defense, the best in the country, Clemson; it’s the best in the country. And I just don’t think that Clemson will edge us out. Close? Probably. It will probably be a close game, but it’s going to be a knock-down, drag ’em out day of reckoning, and Bama’s going to win.”
Really, Phyllis, stats are a different thing than a football game? Aren’t they, you know, based off football games? Also, Alabama’s leading in a lot of the stats (for example, they’re first in total defense, and ahead of Clemson significantly in both yards allowed per play and yards allowed per game), so the “numbers don’t believe in us” thing doesn’t really work. And one of the guys you brag about here is Steve Sarkisian, the guy who was just promoted to offensive coordinator this week? That’s…an interesting choice.
But it gets better, as Finebaum then comes on to ask Phyllis a question, and does so in his typical “rile the target up” manner, saying “Phyllis, I don’t want to upset you here, but Danny Kanell, Mike Greenberg, they’re all leaning towards Clemson beating your favorite Crimson Tide. What do you have to say to these people who say the Tide is not going to win Monday night?”
Phyllis then responds “They’re out of their freaking minds, Finebaum! Danny told me that he would pull for Alabama. Danny, you just stabbed me in the back! And I don’t care what anybody says, I’m going to tell you something, it just makes me happy that we’ve got that many naysayers to put in their place come Monday night. Cause Bama’s going to hit that field, they’re going to roll. They’re going to roll over them. Clemson is an excellent team, but not as good as Bama. Bama’s the best in the country and that’s all there is to it. You can’t beat the best and Bama is the best.”
So, instead of actual insight or analysis, ESPN opted to show viewers two minutes of a superfan declaring her team to be “the best in the country and that’s all there is to it,” and saying dissenters are “out of their freaking minds!” You expect that from call-in radio, including Finebaum’s show, but on SportsCenter? That’s a little more unusual. And where’s the equal time? Do they have some Clemson fan they can dig up to talk about how the Tigers are so much better than the Tide for two minutes?
But hey, this may be the new trend for ESPN. Keep in mind that they’re running the “First Take, Your Take” promotion to put viewers on First Take, and that’s likely to produce similar segments. Who’s excited to hear less about the games and more about why a fan’s team is better than anyone else’s team? Maybe we’ll be seeing more superfans and less actual analysts in the future.