A No-Look Sass

Cleaning out some of my recent notes, I found a pre-Super Bowl article by ESPN's Ray Ratto on Rod Smart of the Carolina Panthers. This weblog has previously discussed the XFL's unusual practice of allowing any name on the back of the uniform, and it is by this measure that you may be more familiar with Smart: he was the infamous He Hate Me of the now-defunct XFL.

But never mind Smart, really. And never mind that the real reason the XFL failed is that it was perceived as a threat to the ingrained notions of modern team sport as arbiter of Truth. The entire purpose of the Ratto article is to take shots at WWE honcho and XFL founder Vince McMahon for the XFL's demise.

In the short excerpt I have included below, Ratto mentions McMahon 4 times by name as well as calling him a "nutbar". NBC, McMahon's partner in the venture, doesn't get mentioned at all in the excerpt. For the record, NBC does get mentioned once at the beginning of the piece, while Vince totals 10 mentions by name as well as various other slurs.

The special teamer with the gift of pure self-promotion became the star of the day, and in doing so, reminded us all of Vince McMahon's worst idea ever.

And so it shall be. When you see Smart and Cooper mugging it up with the unfortunate Pick Man of Nickelodeon fame, you'll think of Vince. When you see the latest retelling of the Smart story Sunday morning on ESPN, then again Sunday afternoon on CBS, you'll think of Vince.

And if he busts a return to help the Panthers beat the New England Patriots in one of the great upsets of recent Super Bowl history, you'll think of Vince.

As in, "Oh, yeah. That's the guy who played in that league the nutbar wrestling guy started."

Ratto goes on to ask if being the butt of jokes on the biggest sports day of the year can possibly be good "for a business already going through a down cycle".

Well, let's look at that assertion a little more closely. While advertising revenues may indeed still be soft in a weak spending economy, the decline certainly hasn't hurt the WWE share price at all. The downward slope at the tip-end of the 1-year curve below hadn't begun at the time this article was written, and even if it had just begun, it is hardly worth calling a "down cycle". In fact, Disney — ESPN's (and ABC's) parent company — seems to be trending the same way that the WWE has — with the exception that they have plateaued far more significantly than the latter since Christmas. Maybe Ratto was looking in the mirror as he wrote … ?

Given the evidence, this attack on McMahon seems to hold little water. While on the surface it is spun as an attempt to kick Vince McMahon around a little for a failed venture, it seems to me to be just as much about disinformation to help the parent company in an entertainment battle, and a no-look potshot at rival NBC Sports coming into an Olympic year. Let's at least call it for what it is.

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