Jamie Horowitz out at Fox Sports

Note: the above Tweet is an update to the firing of Jamie Horowitz and the surrounding controversy

The elation all over sports Twitter should show you just how big the news is that Jamie Horowitz will be leaving Fox Sports. A mere week after the Fox Sports website made a switch to an all-video format, which pushed out great writers like Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel, Horowitz is now the one getting the boot.

The Tweet above certainly indicates that programming may not be the reason for Horowitz’ firing. The fact that he has already hired a litigator only reinforces this idea.

While this story is likely to only get more interesting, there is little beyond the facts on the surface that we have to go on. The programming side of things, however, is far more cut and dry.

The first mark Jamie Horowitz made on the sports media landscape was “Embrace Debate”, The movement that put Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless together for two hours on a daily basis. While a few hot take guys here and there certainly spice up a network, Horowitz made it his mission that the entire network would hinge around this concept.

He left ESPN in 2014 to take over “Today”, a role that he never even started after allegedly clashing with several members of the staff. (His “Today” stint, or lack thereof, provides context for his Fox exit and the questions that surround it. Again, I’m sure we learn much more in the coming days and weeks).

But it was not until he took over at Fox Sports, in May of last year, when he was allowed to truly hatch his full plot. This was his Death Star.

It began with the hiring of Colin Cowherd. I’ve made no bones about it, I’ve never had a big problem with Cowherd. In fact, his show is what first got me truly interested in doing sports radio. I found his show different and unique. Yes, he’s hot take-ey. I said it a few paragraphs ago, a few those of those guys isn’t a bad thing.

That was Horowitz’ problem, though. It didn’t stop with Cowherd. The king of the hot take, Skip Bayless (Horowitz’ personal favorite sports guy), commanded, or was gifted, a massive contract. A simple check of Richard Deitsch’s Twitter profile will show you that Bayless’ show “Undisputed”, with Shannon Sharpe, is regularly defeated in the ratings by shows like Nickelodeon’s “Bubble Guppies”.

The other Death Star plans included Nick Wright, Jason Whitlock, Rob Parker, another hour of Cowherd in the afternoon with Whitlock on “Speak for Yourself”. FS1 had become one big hot-take generator. Hell, as someone who loves talking MJ-LeBron, I reached a point where I just couldn’t turn on the channel. Led by Nick Wright, every nook and cranny of the generational debate was beaten to death, so much so that the network became almost unwatchable.

A network that once centered around fun-loving Jay and Dan, creative Katie Nolan, and the prospects of competing against ESPN, became a clone of all the worst aspects of the worldwide leader. The most glaring example of this came last week, when all written work was purged from the Fox Sports website. The sacrifice of integrity and journalism for hot takes had hit it’s peak. It was also the last major act by Horowitz as head of Fox Sports.

The legacy of Jamie Horowitz is a pretty basic one. He took something that was a fun, ridiculous aspect of sports media, the hot take, and tried to make an entire network out of it. He took a young network with a solid foundation and a chance to eventually compete with ESPN, and turned it into a joke.

And a personal note; he took my favorite thing on the network, the Friday night college football countdown with Matt Leinart, Clay Travis, Stewart Mandel, and others (see, balance), and did away with it.

In fact, it was Mandel who perfectly summed up how we all feel, in one tweet.

I’ll second the mic drop from Stu. #karma

CFB Conference Championship Predictions

ACC
Atlantic: FSU
Coastal: Miami
ACC Championship: FSU over Miami

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American
East: USF
West: Houston
American Championship: USF over Houston

Big 12
Top 2: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma State over Oklahoma

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Big 10
East: Ohio State
West: Wisconsin
Big 10 Championship: Ohio State over Wisconsin

C-USA
East: Middle Tennessee State
West: La Tech
C-USA Championship: La Tech over MTSU

MAC
East: Ohio
West: Toledo
Toledo over Ohio

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Mountain West
Mountain: Boise State
West: Hawaii
Mountain West Championship: Boise over Hawaii

Pac 12
North: Washington
South: USC
Pac 12 Championship: USC over Washington

USC v Washington

SEATTLE, WA – NOVEMBER 12: Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the USC Trojans heads off the field after beating the Washington Huskies 24-13 on November 12, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

SEC
East: Georgia
West: Alabama
SEC Championship: Alabama over Georgia

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Sun Belt Champion: Troy

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CFB Pre-Season Top 25

Just missed the cut (in alphabetical order)
Mississippi State, NC State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Texas A&M, West Virginia

25. UCLA

NCAA Football: UNLV at UCLA
Healthy Josh Rosen will see improvement in year three.

24. Kansas State
Experienced and consistent across the board, but not uber talented.

23. Texas

NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Texas
Ten returners on defense, and Tom Herman/Tim Beck will be a great asset for the QB Buechele.

22. Virginia Tech
The Hokies linebacking core and a solid offensive line will lead Fuente’s team into year two.

21. Oregon

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Willie Taggart breathes new life into Eugene, and his offense will be led by outstanding RB Royce Freeman and sophomore QB Justin Herbert, who put up strong numbers after taking over the job mid-way through last year
20. USF

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Quinton Flowers is a severely underrated playmaking QB, and a team that went 11-2 last season returns seven and nine on offense and defense respectively.

19. Miami
Canes could have endured either the loss of Brad Kaaya or replacing their entire secondary, but having both happen keeps them from truly breaking out for another season.

18. Washington State

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Luke Falk is the most underrated passer in the nation, and he should have an electric senior season in Mike Leach’s offense.

17. Florida
While I don’t love either Malik Zaire or Feleipe Franks, they will certainly be a step up from the QB play of the last couple seasons. The story for Florida is the inexperience on defense, bringing back only three from a year ago.

16. Louisville
Lamar Jackson and Reggie Bonnofan are tremendously skilled, but the Cards aren’t nearly elite on either side of the ball up front.

15. Stanford
Christian McCaffrey led the Cardinal through a few seasons of strong roster turnover, but stability is back with a now veteran linebacking core and offensive line.

14. Michigan

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Wilton Speight finished strong in 2016, but there is far too much turnover for the Wolverines, with Mike McCray being the sole defensive starter returning.

13. Wisconsin

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The Badgers offense has a strong air attack, with QB Alex Hornibrook, TE Troy Fumagali, and WR Jazz Peavy, but they remain a physical team on both sides of the ball up front.

12. Georgia

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All eleven are back on defense, a unit that could be one of the best in college football. Along with QB Jacob Eason, and RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, the Bulldogs are the favorites to win the East.

11. Clemson
Tigers will take a step back after losing DeShaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, and Mike Williams.

10. LSU
While a new offense will certainly be an improvement, Danny Etling is a limited passer. LSU will certainly have a fantastic season, one of their best in a while, but it will take a QB to push them into the Playoff.

9. Auburn
When healthy, Auburn was a top ten team last season. Most of that squad returns, and they now have a QB in Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham. The Tigers will be in position to play for the SEC West crown when they meet Alabama on Thanksgiving weekend.

8. Oklahoma State

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Bold Prediction: Mason Rudolph, in his swan song season, will eclipse 5k yards behind an experienced offensive front.

7. Oklahoma
Outside of Baker Mayfield, the offensive headliners are gone, but there is still experience on the O.

6. Washington

09192015-HuskiesGallery_42
Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin were tremendous in 2016, and Dante Pettis should fill the number one receiver role nicely. All roads lead to a Pac-12 title game showdown with the USC Trojans, where the Huskies can earn a chance to get back to the College Football Playoff.

5. Penn State

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James Franklin has Penn State back in the top echelon of college football, led by a staggering ten returning starters on offense, including QB Trace McSorley and the best running back in the country in Saquon Barkley.

4. USC

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After a rough start, the Trojans went 9-1 after Sam Darnold was given the keys to the car. He’s my Heisman pick, and is more than capable of leading a young and extremely talented set of weapons to a playoff berth.

3. Florida State

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Noles have playoff level talent, all they need is for the offensive line to improve greatly from last season. Derwin James missed most of last year, and he is the type of player that can completely alter opposing offensive game plans when he is on the field.

2. Ohio State
Practically the opposite of their biggest rival, the Buckeyes return most of their roster, including four on the offensive line and virtually all of their offensive production from 2016. A loaded Greg Schiano defense will start only three underclassmen this season, on a unit that could be one of the most athletic in the nation.

1. Alabama

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It’s a flip for the Tide, as the secondary is the stronger unit on the defense, led by Minkah Fitzpatrick. There is turnover upfront, but Nick Saban has proven time and time again that turnover isn’t a huge problem with the kind of players he reloads with. On the offensive side, it’s scary. Jalen Hurts has greatly improved, with the help of former Patriots OC Brian Daboll, in the one area he struggled with; throwing the ball downfield. Throw in a loaded backfield, two great receivers, and an elite offensive line, and Alabama have to be the title favorites again.

I am now openly rooting for the demise of baseball.

I want to like sports. I want to root for every sport to grow and be successful, which in the end, benefits all of us. There is one sport though, that at this point, I just can’t find happiness in. I’ll continue to pay attention to it, because that’s my job, and there’s nothing I hate more than people in sports media who blatantly don’t watch the sports they’re talking to you about, but I just no longer find joy in it. That sport is baseball.

This all hinges on a pretty simple concept. If the people playing the game aren’t allowed to enjoy it, why should I?

The latest entry in the joyless, soulless void that is Major League Baseball, is a home run we saw hit yesterday by Yasiel Puig. It was a three run shot that not only extended the Dodgers lead, but was also the go-ahead score that put LA in sole possession of first place in the NL West. Seems like something to be excited about, right?

Nah, not in the game (game, just want to emphasize the word “game”) of baseball.

Instead, Puig is expected to look at the ground and jog in a brisk fashion, because in baseball, even the speed of your home run trot is something that will get you beaned by a fake tough guy who knows he has a 6 to 1 advantage if you choose to charge the mound. (And by the way, you rarely get suspended for hitting a guy with a baseball, but God forbid he retaliate).

Speaking of fake tough guys, let’s zero back in on this specific incident. The guy who initially calls out Puig is Mets’ first baseman Wilmer Flores, who has done exactly one notable thing in his career: cry.

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You mean to tell me that Wilmer Flores, of all people, got his feelings hurt? Color me shocked. He also had this to say:

One of the biggest delusions in baseball is the “respect for the game”. Sure, it sounds nice to the old-school fan, but everything that surrounds it is why baseball has long been passed by football, soccer, and basketball. “Respect for the game” has become code for “this game isn’t boring enough for me”. How often do you hear about “respect for the game” when you talk football or basketball?

Don’t let the second half of that quote go unnoticed either. Flores basically says, “we suck, so don’t hurt our feelings”. May as well go the tee ball route and just not keep score.

Not to mention, a domestic abuser also attempted to lecture Puig about how to act. Oh, baseball.

There is always one aspect of these no fun allowed baseball incidents that always puzzles me. The intersection of people who say you shouldn’t “embarrass” the other team or hurt their feelings and advocate physical retaliation for being happy,  and the people who love to throw around the word “snowflake”, is staggering.  Every time I get into these incidents on-air, it’s almost like clockwork.

Who’s the snowflake in this situation? Is it the guy who celebrated success, or the guys that had their feelings hurt? Is it the guys that get excited when they do good things, or the guys that whine about other players when they “show them up”? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but a Dominican player smiling as he rounds the bases will send baseball traditionalists into cardiac arrest.

“But Jake, you like hockey, and they have an old-school code of unwritten rules”

Yeah, they do, but there are two big differences. First, your celebrations may be a bit restricted, but your emotion isn’t. Sure, if a guy is dancing on the ice, he’ll get clocked. I don’t agree with that, but it’s not a strict cap on happiness. It’s not egregious, so it’s just an “agree to disagree” factor for me in hockey.

Second, hockey players aren’t fake tough guys. They don’t throw fastballs at guys that can’t retaliate. If you’ve got a problem, you square up. The fact that you can’t fight in baseball doesn’t change the fact that you’re going after a guy who can’t defend himself. Isn’t that the definition of cowardice?

We’ve reached a point with baseball in which numbers continue to dip, and everyone stands a around like an idiot asking why. The sheer reaction to the NFL’s decision to greatly relax the limitations on celebrations should tell you half the reason. People want their sports to be fun.

The other half, is that sports need characters and storylines, not emotionless robots. It took a team losing for 108 years for us to finally get a compelling baseball story in this decade.

Baseball has trended down for years. Hell, the Yankees are finally good again with a star leading the way, and ratings are even down for them. Things can only go bad for so long, and when it’s obvious that what’s making them go bad won’t be changed anytime soon, you just have to give up. It’s easier that way.

Football and basketball are practically year-round now. Boxing and MMA give us at least one good event a month. Soccer is growing fast in America. As I said earlier, I’ll continue to watch, because it’s a facet of my job. Aside from that, I don’t really need baseball anymore, and that’s fine with me.

The difference between Colin Kaepernick and Tyreke Smith

I’ve written quite a bit about Colin Kaepernick, and I’ve made my stance pretty clear. He has made some flat out ridiculous statements, and isn’t talented enough for the distraction to be worth it. The biggest reason he doesn’t have a job is himself, and he lacks the self-awareness to realize he is damaging his career.

I give that background because another athlete has made a political statement that many will view as similar, and I don’t have a problem with it. Is that hypocritical? No. Here’s why.

From a football perspective, it’s simple. The first sentence of the Eleven Warriors article sums it up.

Cleveland Heights four-star defensive end Tyreke Smith didn’t have much to prove during Ohio State’s one-day camp on Saturday, as he’s already one of the most sought-after prospects in the country.

Colin Kaepernick isn’t quite “sought-after”, he’s marginal. When you’re marginal, you don’t get to make waves on hotbutton issues. If you’re a distraction, teams don’t want you. This is a sports truth that isn’t hard to grasp.

Let’s move to the bigger issue. “I hope I don’t get killed for being black today,” is not the same as comparing the police to the slave patrol, or any of the other divisive statements Kaepernick has made. Smith’s message isn’t divisive or inflammtory, he’s not pushing the “pigs in a blanket” narrative.

“I decided to wear the shirt because I wanted to bring attention to the epidemic of blacks being killed at an alarming rate,” Smith said. “What we would like to do is have people talk about these issues to reduce the murder rate of African-Americans.”

“The shirt was created to bring light into the every day problems that blacks face between police and black-on-black crimes,” Tyreke’s older brother, Malik, said.

The negative reaction to this shirt hinges on the idea that this is an inherently anti-cop message. Instead, it’s anti-murder of young black men, in any form or fashion, by anyone. Kaepernick disrespected what the American flag represents, and those who have fought and died to defend this country, along with defending an evil dictator, and a host of other controversial statements. Smith is promoting a healthier black community. Don’t act like those are the same.

Smith’s message is also a dose of reality, while not demonizing and stereotyping an entire group. I know a lot of police officers, and they are great people. Just as in any group, a few bad apples have ruined their perception. Demonizing and stereotyping is how we get to these points in the first place. With that said, it’s hard to watch the Philando Castile video , know that the officer got off scot-free, and then act like things are fine. Is the system broken? Yes. Is driving a wedge deeper and deeper between law enforcement and the black community the answer? No, it only makes things worse. Kaepernick chose the latter, Smith didn’t.

People only read headlines. They’ll see the headline, the shirt, and they’ll make the comparison. That’s a shame, because Tyreke Smith isn’t Colin Kaepernick. He’s not even close.

Kaepernick compares Police to Slave Patrol

He’s at it again. Colin Kaepernick, on Thursday, sent out a tweet in which he compared law enforcement to the runaway slave patrols that existed in pre-Civil War America.

Politically, this is a complex discussion. Do I think that every move law enforcement makes is perfect and justified? Absolutely not, but in the ongoing debate over Kaepernick’s lack of a job, nuance doesn’t matter.

Now, I wrote about this when the Seahawks signed Austin Davis over Kaepernick, and my take hasn’t changed one bit. In fact, it’s only strengthened. Kaepernick is a distraction, and one that his talent doesn’t validate.

If you don’t have the self-awareness to avoid sending a tweet stereotyping police officers, I don’t want you playing quarterback for me. If you don’t have the self-awareness to know how ridiculous it is to defend Fidel Castro to the face of a Cuban reporter, I don’t want you playing quarterback for me. If it is blatantly obvious that football is not your first priority, I don’t want you playing quarterback for me.

None of this really hinges on where you stand politically, but more the sheer stupidity of Kaepernick. If I was desperate for a job, the last thing I would do is go on social media and directly contradict the politics of my prospective employer. This would be my exact policy if the roles were reversed. If you’re a conservative, wanting to be hired by someone who is extremely liberal, and you can’t bite your tongue, you’re an idiot.

There is also the possibility, and it’s a real one, that he just doesn’t care. Outside of being political, he hasn’t said a ton publicly. There have been countless reports throughout this whole saga, many of which have had their legitimacy challenged. Kaepernick supporters have said he wasn’t actually asking for the big contract that was being floated out there, but it remained a point of contention, and still does. Why? Because all we hear is surrogates and supporters. If you’re following politics, you know how unreliable of a source that really is. There has still not been a peep heard from the horse’s mouth on the number. How hard is it to publicly say, “Yeah, I never said I said eight million was my minimum.”? How hard is it to publicly denounce things said about you that are untrue?

This reminds me of Tim Tebow. Remember that guy who, we were told, was someone who loved nothing more than football and would do anything to play? Well, he didn’t love it enough to play tight end when the Buccaneers came calling.  Kaepernick is similar. His supporters will tell you, “He just wants to play! He just wants to be on a roster!”, and yet, he continues to directly hurt his chances at getting a job.

If he refuses to do a few simple things, he’s either an idiot, or he doesn’t care. If he’s an idiot, I really don’t want him playing quarterback on my team.  If he doesn’t care, why do we?