- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 10, 2009

SATURDAY’S BEST BET ON TELEVISION

Back in October, Kerry Collins threw a late touchdown pass to give the Titans a win in Baltimore. The Ravens will try to return the favor at LP Field. 4:30 p.m., Chs. 9, 13

THE DECADENCE OF TELEVISION

Noted columnist Rob Parker resigned from the Detroit News last week. On Tuesday, rapper Lil Wayne appeared on “ESPN First Take” to share his opinions on sports. These facts, seemingly unrelated, have something in common: the corrupting power of television.

Parker was essentially fired after asking Lions coach Rod Marinelli in a postgame conference whether he wished his daughter had married a better defensive coordinator. Joe Barry, Detroit’s defensive coach, is Marinelli’s son-in-law. Parker’s question, which he said was to “lighten the moment,” is hardly the crassest line of interrogation by a sports writer.

But Fox’s postgame show caught on, and Terry Bradshaw blasted Parker, calling him a “total idiot.” That clip sparked a media onslaught against Parker - no matter that the columnist’s only sin was questioning what could be deemed nepotism.

Then there’s ESPN’s decision to have Lil Wayne as a panelist on the same show Parker frequents. But unlike Parker, Lil Wayne has zero qualifications to discuss sports. Yet he’s welcome on ESPN, which evidently needs a “star” to pump up its ratings.

The lesson: In TV land, five-second sound bites and celebrities rule the day, at the expense of qualifications and meaningful discussion.

TWT Five ” All-Star voting shams

1. MLB, 1957 - With help from the Cincinnati Enquirer, fans stuff the ballot box and elect eight Reds players as starters. Commissioner Ford Frick puts Willie Mays and Hank Aaron into the lineup and strips fans of the vote.

2. NHL, 2008-09 - The league uncovers “robo-voting” by Montreal fans, but four Canadiens players nevertheless are chosen to the East’s starting lineup. Just as suspiciously, the Blackhawks and Ducks each have three players elected to start.

3. NHL, 2006-07 - One man’s campaign to get Canucks everyman Rory Fitzpatrick in the starting lineup grows into a grassroots effort. It almost works, thanks to some computer chicanery.

4. MLB, 1999 - A Boston computer programmer hacks into baseball’s Web site to push Nomar Garciaparra ahead of the Yankees’ Derek Jeter in the balloting.

5. WNBA, 2007 - The Detroit Shock hold “Punch Parties” at which fans who fill out ballots receive the chance to meet and get autographs from players and coach Bill Laimbeer.

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