ASHEVILLE, N.C. — I was lucky enough to watch Indiana’s game against Providence live and in person on Monday, so I didn’t watch the broadcast on ESPN2. But when I got back to my hotel on the mountain, I wanted to watch the game again on TV to make some notes.
It was a bad move. My eyes bled a little, my ears crackled and split. My brain melted into colorful emojis.
That’s what Bill Walton does to you.
Bill Walton was a great college player, maybe the best ever. He was a good but injury-prone pro. He’s a nationally known face, a hipster wild man, but now he’s also this:
The worst color commentator on television. And it’s not even close.
Look, I don’t normally go down this road of rating TV analysts because it’s mostly a waste of time, but I literally had to force myself to watch that entire game with Walton droning on and on. He’s 68 years old now, and maybe he’s losing a little mental acuity, but that was ridiculous. It was literally unwatchable, and that’s saying a lot when it’s Indiana basketball.
Walton and play-by-play guy Jason Benetti, who’s really good, aren’t here in Asheville. They are broadcasting remotely from their home offices, which has become a pandemic thing at ESPN. Maybe that leads to the disconnect with Walton, but during the two-hour broadcast, I bet he didn’t talk about the game itself for more than about 15 minutes. Some people might like that, but if you’re a basketball fan and you really want to enjoy the game, he simply ruins it.
Most of the time during the two games he covered on Monday, he didn’t know what he was talking about. He hasn’t seen Indiana play in five years, but he said “this is the best I’ve seen Jackson-Davis play” when the score was 4-2. He made dozens of mistakes, and was even confusing players in the IU-Providence game with guys from the opener between Texas and Davidson. He didn’t know if Trey Galloway had played in the first game or the second game. Uh, Bill, Trey is a freshman for Indiana, not code for three mushrooms.
ESPN should be embarrassed. If you want to call yourself the Worldwide Leader in Sports, you just can’t have that on TV. He needs to go. His hippie act for a minute or two in a broadcast can be tolerated, but they literally went several minutes at a time WITHOUT talking about the game. Many times. That’s a joke.
The majority of sports fans complain incessantly about broadcasters, but I don’t normally go there. It’s a matter of taste most of the time. But with Walton, it’s gone too far. He adds literally nothing to a broadcast now. His mind, or what’s left of it, was everywhere throughout the broadcast.
Deviating from the game happens a lot these days, and it’s tolerable in bits and pieces. Dick Vitale, for instance, is a lot for some people to take, but when you peel back the layers, he really knows his basketball – outside of loving Kentucky’s John Calipari too much every time he does an Indiana game.
And I will never fault Dickie V for talking a lot about Jim Valvano and the V Foundation and cancer research. The man has literally raised hundreds of millions of dollars for a very good cause. Good for him. He’s helped save thousands of lives, and for any of us who’ve dealt with — or are dealing with — cancer, I can handle turning the volume down a little when necessary.
Closer to home, Indiana fans constantly complain no matter who does their game. Robbie Hummel was the analyst on the Big Ten Network for the season opener, and many Hoosier fans whined about a Purdue guy doing an IU game. They failed to actually listen to his comments, and that’s a shame. I personally think Robbie Hummel is really good as an analyst.
And then there’s Dan Dakich.
Many of you can’t stand Dan, and you’re entitled to your opinion. But I actually happen to think Dan has become one of ESPN’s best analysts. There’s no question in my mind that he’s gotten better every year, and he does a nice job of breaking down a game.
Dan does his research enough to break down what teams are trying to accomplish in a game, too. He ADDS to a broadcast, unlike Walton, who completely destroys it. He can stray from the game a bit, but it’s always in small doses. I’m fine with that. ESPN keeps giving Dan more and more high-profile games every year, and that’s a wise decision in my book.
Where most fans — especially IU fans — go wrong on Dan is just because they don’t like his radio show in Indianapolis or his stance on Indiana’s basketball coaches through the years, they can’t differentiate between radio and TV. He might say stupid stuff you don’t like on a Thursday afternoon radio show, but when he’s breaking down Michigan State-Wisconsin that night, he’s damn good.
There’s nothing good I can say about Bill Walton as an analyst right now. He talked more about Sean Miller than he did Archie Miller on Monday. He butchered names constantly and transposed players often. Heck, he probably talked more about Jerry Garcia than he did Trayce Jackson-Davis.
I felt sorry for Jason Benetti. He’s really good, and I listen to him often, not only during college basketball season but during the summer too, because he’s the play-by-play voice of the Chicago White Sox, a baseball team I follow very closely. He kept trying to reel Walton in, but he had no chance. Not from his basement.
There’s only one entity that can reel in Walton, and that’s the big cheeses at ESPN. They’ve proven, much like every media company, that they’re really good at laying off and firing people these days. Walton is plenty rich and doesn’t need the money. He’s got plenty to keep himself entertained in retirement, too.
And they’ve shown the door to analysts in the past when they just weren’t good on TV anymore, Bob Knight for one, when the time had come.
Bill Walton should be next. ESPN needs to pull the plug on this s*[email protected] and end it
And can they do it before 1:30 today?
Related stories on Indiana basketball
- INDIANA OFFENSE STRUGGLES: Indiana had its lowest point total in nearly 11 years in an ugly 66-44 loss to Texas on Tuesday. Here’s another Tom Brew column. CLICK HERE
- THOMPSON CHANGES HIS GAME: It’s Race Thompson’s fourth year at Indiana, and his time has finally arrived. He has a new body and, even more importantly, new-found confidence that he can play at a high level. Tom Brew column. CLICK HERE
- GAME 2, INDIANA BEATS PROVIDENCE: Indiana dominates on the boards and runs away from Providence in the first round of the Maui Invitational. CLICK HERE
- GAME 1, INDIANA BEATS TENNESSEE TECH: In the Hoosiers’ season-opener in Assembly Hall, Trayce Jackson-Davis scores 26 points to lead IU to an 89-59 victory over Tennessee Tench. CLICK HERE
- COMPLETE INDIANA SCHEDULE: Here is the full Indiana basketball schedule for the 2020-21 season, including links to stories on games already played. CLICK HERE