This Bob Knight nonsense – and it is Vince Wilfork-sized nonsense– creates another opportunity for @Poynter and its Poynter Review Project. Knight’s de facto refusal to say the name of a certain SEC school is the kind of petulance I’d expect from a seven-year-old denied a second cup of chocolate ice cream.
The story has now filtered into the mainstream, including coverage from USA TODAY (http://content.usatoday.com/communities/campusrivalry/post/2012/03/espns-bob-knight-wont-refer-to-kentucky-by-name/1). Kentucky-based media such as Matt Jones and Kyle Tucker have thankfully drawn attention to this as well, and Knight being Knight even inspired an ESPN.com front page columnist (and bravo to him for doing so) to weigh in (http://www.awfulannouncing.com/2012-articles/march/its-going-to-be-awkward-for-espn-and-bob-knight-if-kentucky-wins-the-ncaa-tournament.html), a move I hope doesn’t get him sent to a North Korean re-education camp.
How does this serve ESPN viewers? It doesn’t. But this isn’t really about Bob Knight refusing to say the name Kentucky. This is about Bob Knight dictating what Bob Knight does as an analyst, something he’s done on his ESPN Radio Mike and Mike segments and beyond. And it doesn’t take Inspector Clouseau to figure out what Knight’s issues are here. A quick Google search of Knight and John Calipari shows the origins. So Knight doesn’t like Calipari. Fine. Man up, tell the audience why, and then do the job you are paid to do as a professional broadcaster. Stop insulting me as a viewer with this petulant act. That ESPN management caters to this might be the most befuddling aspect of all. I personally think Knight is a very good game analyst but he brings zero additional audience or revenue to a broadcast.
When ESPN hired Poynter last February, the Bristol Marching Band trumpeted the hire with the following sentence: "ESPN and The Poynter Institute today announced a new step in media transparency." ESPN executives said the goal was to improve its content through increased accountability and transparency. If we are to believe such talk – and I’ve always wanted to give ESPN and Poynter the benefit of the doubt here– this is a situation where the viewer should be offered an explanation behind why Knight can seemingly do as he pleases, as if he was a breakaway political republic. Can you imagine Jeff Van Gundy refusing to say the words "Houston Rockets" or "New York Knicks" on the air? Of course you couldn’t. Jeff Van Gundy is a professional. As are most analysts at ESPN.
Knight hasn’t talked to SI in some time and he’s not going to talk about this with reporters but Poynter has the ability and the paid charter to speak with ESPN’s executives, college basketball producers, and Knight’s fellow analysts. Viewers deserve some answers, and it’s time for Poynter to roll.