For years, I’ve been threatening to write a treatise on all the things I don’t like about Cris Collinsworth. The idea usually rears its head around 10:03 on Sunday nights, after I’ve spent yet another three hours of my life listening to Collinsworth wax rhapsodic about some franchise QB and how he could probably cure cancer if he only put his mind to it. I realize I’m far from alone. Usually, on Sunday nights, “Collinsworth” rockets to the top of the “trending” column on X (formerly Twitter), his name super-charged by hot takes from any given game that make no sense or that were immediately proven wrong within seconds.
Yet, in the world of sports media, there is far more cruelty than not, and as a woman who formerly worked in sports talk radio, I know how it feels to have listeners pen entire tomes on how much you suck. And anyway, Collinsworth has one of the most high-profile jobs in sports, and I do not, so what do I know?
So I want to be as fair as possible in my critique of Collinsworth, and point to things that can actually, objectively be discussed, like his palling around with Mike Tirico, the perpetrator of one of the worst strings of sexual harassment I’ve ever heard of, or the fact that he injected his nepo baby son into all of our lives. The former of those things really isn’t Collinsworth’s fault, the latter very much is. But when it comes to Cris Collinsworth, my biggest complaint is this: He doesn’t appear to prepare for the games he’s calling.
Why do I care? Good question, I would love to tell you. Successful men who make millions of dollars in sports media, but eventually stop preparing for their games/shows, particularly stick in the craws of women who work in the industry, who don’t have the same luxury. Sure, Stephen A. Smith can make it blatantly obvious that he doesn’t watch college football or baseball, and Mike Francesa can (repeatedly) fall asleep on the air, but women working in sports broadcasting aren’t given the same leeway. One very successful woman in sports broadcasting gave me some great advice: “Make sure you’re prepared, because we don’t get a second chance. If you screw up, it’ll be because you’re a woman, and they’ll never forget it.” She was right. I once mistakenly called Bulls player Denzel Valentine “Denzel Washington,” on the air, and men still bring it up to me. But one of my colleagues calling Laquon Treadwell “Laquon Treadmill” was laughed off and forgotten about within the day.
My feeling on it is this: If you are in a position to create a narrative around a game and its players, you had better do your homework and make sure your take is correct. Because too many casual sports fans will repeat it just because a big-time NFL broadcaster said it.
Back to Collinsworth. Last night, while my hapless Chicago Bears, sans injured QB Justin Fields, attempted to stay on the field with the Chargers, I listened to Collinsworth hype up backup QB Tyson Bagent as if he were the second coming of Joe Montana. If you’ve been living under a rock (in Chicago), Bagent was an undrafted free agent out of DIII Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. He beat out Nathan Peterman to be the Bears’ backup, and was called into service when Fields went down with a dislocated thumb. Also, Bagent’s dad is 28-time World Arm Wrestling champ Travis Bagent, which is ironic, considering that a lack of arm strength is one of Bagent’s drawbacks. Anyway . . .
Last week against the Raiders, Bagent threw for 162 yards and a touchdown in a 30-12 win over Las Vegas. So hey, nice job and congrats on your first NFL start and win, Tyson. Bagent finished that game with a 72 percent completion rate and a QB rating of 70.2. Nothing, NOTHING that merited the amount of hype Collinsworth had for the rookie coming into this game.
And I get it, Cris. Imagine what it must have felt like to be calling Patriots games when it became clear that Tom Brady was a much better option than Drew Bledsoe. Or Rams games when it started looking like former grocery stock boy Kurt Warner was a legit NFL quarterback. But this game, and Tyson Bagent, was not that.
The Bears had all of seven points on the board when Collinsworth began making it sound like Bagent had somehow won the starting job away from Fields, saying absurd things like, “We see the way he moves around out here tonight. We see the leadership skills. There is definitely something to this guy.” Sure, there might be something to this guy. For Bagent’s sake, I hope there is. But Collinsworth said this during a game when Bagent threw for 232 yards, 0 touchdowns, two interceptions and had a QB rating of 62.
Collinsworth went on like this for most of the game, suggesting that Fields “study” Bagent’s game, telling the audience “These couple of games, however long Bagent stays the starting quarterback, they’re gonna have Justin Fields study this guy.” Well, Cris, I can tell you exactly how long Bagent is going to be the starting quarterback – until Justin Fields is ready to return. No, there’s not a quarterback controversy in Chicago, and no, Bagent is not on the same level as Fields. It began to sound like Collinsworth prepared for the game by reading the worst takes on Bears Twitter and listening to Stan from Berwyn on sports talk radio all week.
Then there was the glorious moment that Collinsworth suggested that Fields needed to “figure out” what Bagent was already able to do, seconds before Bagent threw one of two interceptions on the night.
It’s not that Bagent is a bad quarterback. For all any of us know, he’ll turn out to be a very good quarterback. And God knows NFL draft scouts have gotten it wrong before. But other than being able to stand in the pocket and manage the game, there hasn’t really been anything special about Bagent, who seems like a good guy with a great attitude. And hey, we all make mistakes. I’ve made too many bad calls and predictions to count. But what was so galling about Collinsworth last night was his refusal (inability?) to change his narrative once it was clear that it didn’t match what was unfolding on the field in front of him.
If Collinsworth had paid better attention, or prepared for the game better, he would have realized that the “Tyson Bagent might unseat Justin Fields as the starter” angle was a narrative in search of a game to justify it. Nothing Bagent did in his three appearances for the Bears merited Collinsworth’s over-the-top glorification of a young, green, backup quarterback for the worst team in the NFC North. And, frankly, putting that kind of pressure on a young QB is unfair.
Fans on social media began suggesting that Collinsworth’s take on Bagent came straight from Bears coaches, who have grown frustrated with Fields’ development. That may very well be true, but Collinsworth’s job, then, is to take those comments and filter them through a lens of objectivity, not construct an entire storyline around them and parrot it to a national audience like it’s God’s truth.
This has become a weekly occurrence for Collinsworth, who usually picks out one player (usually a QB, usually Patrick Mahomes) and goes on to express his deep and abiding love for them for the entire game, no matter what is actually happening on the field. Toss in a bunch of warmed over Monty Python references (NBC, I am begging you to stop with the cutesy graphics), and Collinsworth has done the nearly impossible: Made NFL football damn near intolerable.
Most of us who work in sports will never achieve the levels of success, fame and wealth Collinsworth has. And sports media is far from a meritocracy, as Jac’s Collinsworth’s presence continues to prove every week. But my God, Cris. You owe it to the audience to at least talk about the game that’s actually happening, not the game you’re watching in your mind. If you can’t do that, step aside and let someone else take over (not Jac).
Original source here
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