Billy Packer was the center of the backlash as the media began to decline

I remember thinking and then writing, “It’s come to this?”

I’m not sure he would have chosen it as part of his legacy, but Billy Packer, who died Thursday at the age of 82, helped remind us that the sports world had gone mad — and is going to continue to do so. No bottom in sight to bottom out on.

The 2004 NCAA tournament selection committee, appointed in large part by Packer to CBS (a longtime NBC court clerk with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire, he followed the tournament to CBS and was fired in 2008). replaced as lead analyst by Clark Kellogg) had picked Philadelphia’s Saint Joseph’s University as the No. 1 seed.

Saint Joe’s was a very strong team. Led by coach Phil Martelli and guard Delonte West (a budding NBA player-turned-dad and drug-addict twice-arrested suspected beggar) finished the regular season 16-0 at the Atlantic 10.

Packer—his opinion was solicited because of his job description, fame, and cooperative, talkative, utterly committed nature—said that Saint Joe’s was a little overrated given its conference and schedule.

Packer said Oklahoma State, 14-2 in the Big 12, deserved to be seeded ahead of Saint Joe’s. For what it’s worth now – almost nothing – Oklahoma State defeated Saint Joe’s by two points in their regional finals.

Billy Packer and then in 2004 St. Joe’s trainer Phil Martellli.

Well, you would have thought Packer would have accused Saint Joe’s of sedition, treason, tyranny and conspiracy to poison cheesesteaks. All dams broke. All hell broke loose and then spread north, south and west from the Schuylkill.

In an overreaction to a sane opinion without a big deal, Martelli called Packer “an ass” on several occasions. The student body and local radio erupted in spasms of seething hatred.

Given that Packer was the star guard of the 1962 Wake Forest team that defeated Saint Joe’s in the second round of the NCAAs, conspiracy theories against Saint Joe’s and Philly were invented and circulated.

People—college basketball “fans”—were crazy about something that ultimately meant nothing, had no intrinsic or collegiate educational value beyond a few words that formed an irrelevant, passing opinion.

Not that we needed additional evidence even in 2004, but that the Packer-Saint Joe episode was and remains memorable as sports institutions continue to lose their collective sanity to lowered standards and values.

Born Anthony William Paczkowski and the son of Lehigh’s basketball coach, Packer called out 34 NCAA tournament finals. But he was a weekday businessman, a dealmaker first.

That was problematic. He increasingly viewed college basketball as a money-corrupted business, from sneaker company payola to TV rights auctions that so often transported poor, fatherless, academically deficient recruits on full scholarships thousands of miles from colleges, who were supposedly in charge of their training.

Billy Packer and Jim Nantz called the 2006 NCAA tournament.

We talked about it often in long phone calls, during which he encouraged me to follow all the dirty money trails, some of which he promoted.

But business – his television business – prevented him from speaking out publicly, a true advocate with an established national forum for change, accountability and liability. Knowing that NBC, then CBS and the college basketball business had bought — or rented — his weekend soul, his soul rests.

Gray practices hypocrisy while calling out hypocrisy

Every once in a while, I watch the WFAN/CBS Sports Net simulcast of the “Boomer & Gio” show to hear if “Weekday” Boomer Esiason — a transparent Where Am I Today? wrong — and Gregg Giannotti — a pig who mistakes himself for a prize ham — have risen above cheap, childish, junior high school pee-pee and poo-poo “entertainment.”

On Thursday morning, for example, they chatted about (chuckle, chuckle) vaginas, spoken in crude terms that would have sent 13-year-olds into the principal’s office.

Maggie Grey
Getty Images for happiness

When the conversation abruptly turned to the latest from Jimmy Dolan, who is making things worse, they greeted former WFAN colleague Maggie Gray.

Gray made headlines when she slammed Dolan for his “disgusting hypocrisy” in supporting sexually abused women’s complaints, despite Garden losing $11.6 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit — Dolan testified in defense — to a female executive , the alleged abuse by Dolan- Hire Isiah Thomas.

Gray also disagreed with Dolan’s band song “I Should Have Known,” a confessional about Dolan’s friendship with convicted sexual deviant Harvey Weinstein. Gray said he drove too long on the opposite road to suddenly change direction.

Thursday’s on-air chat with Esiason and Giannotti ended with Gray claiming that she absolutely loves her show.

Boomer Esiason (L) and Gregg Giannotti (R) during their WFAN morning show on October 31, 2022.
Boomer Esiason (L) and Gregg Giannotti (R) during their WFAN morning show on October 31, 2022.
WFAN/CBS sports network

In that case, she must have missed all that quiet vaginal talk that just preceded her, or ignored it in exchange for the attention.

As for Giannotti and Esiason, they didn’t mention to her their own disgusting hypocrisy, which she had just expressed. A few champions.

Annoyed by all the bugs

Sunday’s DamnFool prop bets include: Number of Fox Studio panelists to show up before the 49ers-Eagles game. Last Sunday, before the Cowboys-Niners, Fox had eight — four more than needed to form the male choir to sing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

While Fox’s Erin Andrews insists she’s a serious broadcast journalist despite evidence to the contrary, the fact that she embraces the subjects of her Fox Sports interviews – Dak Prescott’s latest – is anathema to serious journalism.

Erin Andrew interviews Dak Prescott on November 24, 2022.
USA TODAY sports

One more reason to enjoy ice hockey: The action-packed first half of the Islanders – Maple Leafs game lasted just 29 minutes on Monday. TV play-by-play man Brendan Burke: “A commercial break. It’s usually three.”

Donald Trump is not a white supremacist. However, he is an autocrat. That’s why he won his Florida golf club’s senior championship again last week — and by a wide margin — while everyone from caddies to competing members knew it’s hard to beat a guy who breaks all the rules, starting with a no-show for the first round, but still post the leading score.

That NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was comfortable with Oilers star Connor McDavid appearing in a sports betting commercial starring Wayne Gretzky is further evidence that CFOs pose as good guardians of the game.

Brendan Brown, a radio analyst at Knicks who was recently fired by MSG after allegations of verbal abuse, made a good team with play-by-play man Ed Cohen. Whatever happened, it’s a shame.

The question isn’t why Bethune-Cookman ousted former NFL star DB Ed Reed after just 25 days as head coach, but why the college even considered hiring a vulgar, scruffy street speaker. (Check out the video.) Was the school impressed by the stars or just looking for a job?

Ed Reed
Ed Reed
NBAE via Getty Images

Bobby Lewis – who managed thousands of Rangers and Knicks games from the good old days of MSG Network from 1976 to 2013 – has died at the age of 74. He was treasured by everyone in the house when the house seemed like home. Mike McCarthy, former MSG Executive Producer:

“For 25 years, Bobby was the network’s MVP.”

Last Sunday, 1:55 into the first half, Bengals third and 4 by the Bills ’10 – who’s in, who’s out? – CBS switched to formula mode: two spectator shots and one from a coach watching from a sideline. Big game, post-season play, neglect of game circumstances are habits.

Jimmy Dolan threatens to go an entire game without drinking? Will it be a home game? Billy Packer was the center of the backlash as the media began to decline

Emma Bowman

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