Five minutes into the SEC Network’s signature show, airing live Friday from the SEC men’s basketball tournament in St. Louis, the host and two analysts had to remind fellow analyst Antoine Walker of something.
The joking rebuke was in response to Walker having just referred to the Kentucky Wildcats as “we” and “our.”
It was sort of like what happens in my journalism classes when a student keeps saying the same dumb thing and the rest of the class finally has enough and decides to shut him down.
Why does it matter if Walker can’t be objective, you might ask. For just the reason the other analysts, Daymeon Fishback and Pat Bradley, were giving. Walker is supposed to evaluate SEC basketball. He isn’t employed by ESPN’s regional network to be a cheerleader for his big blue alma mater.
It’s a journalism thing. He’s a professional. Or supposed to be.
But it’s become something of a running joke when Walker’s on air that if he’s asked an open-ended question like who will win the tournament, he always answers “Kentucky.”
Granted, there’s a fine line that might be hard for a homer like Walker to avoid tripping over. The SEC Network analysts are touted for their college experience: Fishback at Auburn, Bradley at Arkansas, for example.
Walker needs to listen to his fellow talking heads and notice what they do — and don’t. Fishback talks knowledgeably about Auburn — both the current SEC co-champion team and the school’s basketball history. He should — he is a part of it. Still, he never becomes an Auburn cheerleader on air. Not coincidentally, he’s the network’s best at talking basketball.
Does Walker need more role models? During football season, Greg McElroy bends over backward to treat every team the same way he does Alabama where he quarterbacked the 2010 National Championship.
Over at big brother ESPN, Jay Bilas calls ACC game after ACC game (after ACC game). He seems to try even harder to be even-handed when his former school, Duke, plays arch rival North Carolina.
If somebody from another planet was given a recording of a Bilas-called UNC vs. Duke game, I contend the alien would never know Bilas played for Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
So Antoine, take note. You’re a professional.