Is the Zach Wilson story ultimately going to be more about the scoring he does off the field than on it?
By now you probably know about this soap opera surrounding the Jets quarterback featuring his ex-girlfriend, his former college teammate/roommate, his new gal-pal and, allegedly, his mother’s friend.
Wilson’s new version of Gang Green has sucked all other storylines — and oxygen — out of the room on the road to training camp. That’s where Wilson, when asked about the situation, will either say something funny or, in a nice way, say his private life is his business and he would rather talk about football.
Question is will the media, including the social variety, accommodate him? Or will they look for more gossip to keep the ball rolling? If Wilson doesn’t look sharp in training camp there will be pot-stirrers wondering out loud if his “focus” is elsewhere — like on his love life.
Wilson can reiterate, over and over, that he’s all about football. That doesn’t mean he will be able to convince Valley of the Stupid Gasbags, or commentators from other media precincts, that he’s truly dedicated to his work between the lines. The skeptics will only be convinced when his on-field performance clarifies things, one way or another. Nonetheless, this “scandal” can actually turn into a good thing for Wilson.
Many, many moons ago this theory was proven by Joe Namath. His electric exploits on the gridiron, and off, confirmed Joe Willie could expertly succeed at doing two things at once, so to speak. And the media loved him for it. He was their guy. Namath also provided the Jets with a distinct image and culture; something the 2022 Jets are still searching for.
As things stand now, the NFL doesn’t think the Jets have either the power, pizazz or quarterback to be a legit attraction. Why else would the league scheduling Gnomes relegate the Jets to 1 p.m. regional status in 14 of their first 15 games. That means no national exposure or “love” until Dec. 22 when the Jets visit Jacksonville on Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football.” Since all teams get a chance to play on “TNF,” an appearance there is no grand achievement.
Viewed through the prism of winning, the Wilson soap opera would feature a swashbuckling quarterback, who can handle all varieties and venues of heat. A quarterback who inspires his teammates in different ways. Through the lens of losing, Wilson becomes nothing more than a sad character in another sorry, dysfunctional sports reality show that nobody cares about.
The greatest achievement of ESPN’s “KayRod Cast,” the companion telecast to “Sunday Night Baseball,” is the discovery of Roger Clemens.
The fire-balling, PED cheat, turned in his second scintillating guest spot last Sunday with Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez, during Yankees-Red Sox. Like his first appearance, Clemens was loose, opinionated, funny and original. And (duh) he actually knows what he’s talking about. Kay/Rodriguez also deserve credit for getting the most out of Clemens.
Both Fox and ESPN, two of the three MLB “free” TV partners (Turner is the third), have shown no hesitation to hire players who have cheated the game. So, if they already have taken that road, the suits should consider hiring Clemens (if he wants a TV gig) as an analyst. Not only does he show potential, he probably could take a studio seat now and be better than most of the voices already yakking.
LOW RATINGS RANT
On the surface, it sounded like a caller suggesting Michael Kay is ”carrying” Don La Greca’s career, was reason enough to light DLG’s fire Monday, setting him off on the second rant in the same call.
Yet it’s worth wondering if the continued drop in ratings for ESPN-98.7′s “The Michael Kay Show,” and the recent beat-down it took in the ratings department from WFAN’s “Carton & Roberts Show” has the cast and crew on edge — frustrated — giving DLG even more reason to lash out at the first convenient target.
After all, the same cast that had achieved ratings glory (Kay, DLG, Peter Rosenberg) with the same style show, has plummeted to eleventh in the market with a 3.3 share (men 25-54 demo), losing out in the Spring ratings book to the afternoon-drive sports show hosted by WFAN’s Craig Carton/Evan Roberts, who recorded a 6.3 share, good for second in the market. It was the second straight ratings book victory for Carton/Roberts who are in a groove.
Now, the Kay Show is like a slumping player who can’t get off the skids. Do they make changes in personnel or content? Or do they keep rolling the same dice, relying on stuff that has worked before?
Like DLG’s rants.
”Do not ever say to me, you wouldn’t have the guts to say it to my face,” DLG screamed at the pesky caller, “Michael Kay’s got nothing to do with what I am and who I am. I can work with Michael Kay (who did not work the 98.7 show last week). I can work without Michael Kay.”
CAN’T TAKE THE SCHTICK
Stephen A. Smith can’t get back to ESPN’s “First Take” fast enough.
For whenever he returns, maybe SAS can put a stop to the predictable Wednesday segments featuring former athletes and Christopher (Mad Dog) Russo.
The plug-and-play “debate” has the player challenging, and casting aspersions, on many of Russo’s “old school” takes. The latest mouth to rely on the blueprint was former NFL DB Domonique Foxworth. There was nothing subtle about his approach. On social media he advanced the notion that he was out to “cook” Dog.
Hey, this stuff was compelling when it was spontaneous. Like when JJ Redick steamrolled Russo. Now, it has become a boring shtick. It may still be funny but it’s much too predictable.
AROUND THE DIAL
Apparently having faith that its new “Monday Night Football” team, Joe Buck/Troy Aikman, need no practice, ESPN suits have assigned their new No. 2 team, Steve Levy, Louis Riddick, Dan Orlovsky and reporter Laura Rutledge to work two exhibition games (Chicago at Seattle on Aug. 18 and Falcons at Jets on Aug. 22). The team will also call three regular season games. … Cody Decker worked well as a late fill-in for Evan Roberts (out with COVID) last week with Carton. … Frank Isola and Mina Kimes were solid together last week filling-in on ESPN’s PTI. Predictably, Isola got picky, chiding Kimes, and giving her no style points, for the ceremonial first pitch she threw at a Mariners game last month. … Incredibly, Norman Julius Esiason went a week without fat-shaming Mekhi Becton. Congratulations!
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DUDE OF THE WEEK: BRANDON NIMMO
Always impressive when major leaguers find time in-season to give back. Such was the case last week when the Mets center fielder hosted a sandlot baseball game in Flushing. A simple and effective way to reach out and inspire.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: FS1
For a remote mess. FS1 suits, apparently looking to save a few bucks, thought it would be a good idea to have A.J. Pierzynski and Kevin Kugler work a meaningful Mets-Braves from a remote location. Pierzynski’s mike went dead in the second inning and the Foxies had to scramble, bringing in Dontrelle Willis from their L.A. studio to take over for AJP. Lame.
What Brian Cashman said: “Hopefully the best [of Joey Gallo] is yet to come.”
What Brian Cashman meant to say: “I running out of patience.”