In case you were wondering who Britt McHenry is…

Media, Television

In a bizarre and embarrassing rant that went viral, ESPN personality Britt McHenry verbally abused a woman who was working at the office of a towing company in Arlington, Virginia. When I ask who McHenry is, I’m not asking in a tone wondering, “Who does she think she is talking to people like this?” It’s a legitimate question as to who she is, because I don’t know. I’m going to presume you’re like me in that you had no idea who Britt McHenry was before this and wouldn’t have known had this not happened.

You can watch it below.

According to McHenry, her vehicle was towed from an Arlington, Virginia parking lot for no reason. If that’s true and was done just because the municipality and towing company are trying to make money from unsuspecting and innocent people, then she had the right to be livid. She might even have had the right to walk into the office of the towing company and vent. Had she gone into a cursing rant as to why they took her bleeping car when there was no reason for them to do so, then no one would have said a word. In fact, many might have agreed with her. Instead, she decided to go beyond justified anger and comment negatively on the appearance of the woman sitting behind the desk of the towing company office while arrogantly insinuating that she was a superior human being because she’s “in the news” and has a college degree. In truth, she’s in the news now because her story is newsworthy. Prior to that, she was an employee at a sports network that does break news and has reporters that do excellent work, but she is neither a newsbreaker nor a reporter. She’s a personality.

I call her a “personality” because I don’t believe the designation of “reporter” should just be handed over by sheer nature of a job title. She’s a sideline person; she does interviews; she’s a good looking woman whom the network hopes will attract some viewers to watch her. There’s nothing wrong with that until the person begins to believe that appearance and aesthetics equates to talent and intelligence.

I can’t say whether or not she’s talented; if she knows anything about sports; if she’s likable; if she’s an asset to the network because before this, I had no idea who she was. The idea that she’s a network personality seems to have given her an inflated sense of self-importance to believe it’s appropriate to treat others as if they’re beneath her.

McHenry is a face. And a replaceable one at that. Walk onto the campus of UCLA, USC, Florida, Florida State, Arizona State – any of the well-known schools where the coeds are generally considered the prettiest in the country – and you can find a replacement for McHenry who could be trained within a few months to seamlessly do the exact same job with no one even remembering her name.

The apology she posted on Twitter was indicative of what it was that made her feel so entitled to say the things she said to that woman to start with. It wasn’t, “I said some terrible, obnoxious, arrogant things to someone I don’t even know. I was angry, but that’s no excuse and I shouldn’t equate another person’s appearance with their self-worth in the same way that I don’t want to be seen as someone who got her job based on little more than the way I look.” That would have been an honest apology. Instead, it wasn’t even an apologetic gesture. It was more of the me-me-me that blew her ego out of control. Translating what she tweeted, it actually said, “I got screwed when my car was towed. I was mad and I threw a tantrum. And, hey, whatever. Sorry I got busted. I have to apologize so I won’t get fired. Y’know. I’ll try to be a better person. Etc.”

There was no mention of the woman she was berating because the woman didn’t exist in McHenry’s world before and she only exists now because McHenry got into trouble for the abusive tirade.

If brainless mannequins are hired and they’ve been trained to equate a person’s worth with appearance, then this is unavoidable when the world doesn’t fall at the brainless mannequin’s feet as they’re supposed to. It’s a testimony to the type of person she is and how insecure she is. “I’m good looking, therefore I’m better than you.”

McHenry was suspended by the network for a week from doing…whatever it is she does. I’m still not sure. Some were saying she should be fired. I don’t believe this was a fireable offense. However, the question about McHenry’s job status isn’t whether or not she should be fired, but what it was about her that got her hired in the first place. Had she been someone who was average-looking, was slightly overweight or plain fat, would ESPN have hired her? They can say they would have. They can claim that their hiring practices are, in part, predicated on the photogenic nature and charm of their employees but the employees must be qualified. But the reality and obviousness of their and every other network’s hiring decisions diametrically opposes any protestation to the contrary stating that they would have hired her regardless of appearance.

She’s proud of her appearance and clearly works hard to maintain it. She’d better. Because once it’s gone, she’s not going to have a job on television since her looks are the only talent she has.

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Michael Kay’s Diet Coke Stunt: Just For The Lack Of Taste Of It

History, Management, Media, Players, Television

Michael Kay’s first show as the new simulcast of his ESPN radio show on the YES Network replacing Mike Francesa’s WFAN show began with an act that is indicative of what we can expect moving forward. Hopes that Kay would alter his sycophancy, self-promotion, pettiness and pretentious ridiculousness were dashed immediately after 3 p.m. EST on February 3. As the show began, on display in front of Kay was a bottle of Diet Coke. After their introduction, Kay’s flunky/partner Don La Greca lifted a garbage can up for all to see and Kay theatrically tossed the bottle into the trash.

For those not familiar with the reference, Francesa always has an open bottle of Diet Coke in front of him from the beginning of the show to the end. It’s become a running joke known to frequent viewers. In a misguided attempt at humor; to flaunt the fact that he’s replacing Francesa; or simply because he’s obnoxious, Kay’s childish, poorly planned and blatant moment of flamboyance did little more than validate the reputation he’s carried with him since his rise to prominence on Yankees broadcasts first on the radio then for the YES Network. Constantly fighting battles that only he sees or cares about, Kay’s penchant for carrying out personal vendettas over the smallest perceived slights has blurred the line that he himself created as he portrays himself as an objective sports analyst while simultaneously being an employee of the Yankees rooting for, promoting and self-righteously “protecting” the brand.

Lest anyone believe that his new gig with his show being on YES in lieu of Francesa’s would lead to an altering of that template that he’s crafted. The Diet Coke stunt—and that’s what it was, a stunt—clearly indicated that it’s going to be more of the same from Kay. In fact, it might get worse.

What was the purpose of it? It wasn’t a knee-jerk idea that they did without thinking about it. If it was, where’d they get the bottle of Diet Coke? Saying something stupid can be done in a split-second. To put forth the effort to go and find a bottle of Diet Coke, strategically place it in front of him for all to see knowing that Francesa-watchers would understand the symbolism and have his partner pick up the trash can to dispose of it in such florid fashion took planning. It wasn’t well-thought out, it wasn’t funny and, unless Kay’s intent was to say, “Hey, I’m still a jerk!”, it wasn’t necessary.

And that’s the key. If Kay was truly trying to go mainstream and stake a claim for his show as a nationwide entity, he’d have to tone down his act from a Yankees shill who behaves as a petulant infant using his forum to promote his own agenda and alter his persona and content. Whether that was ever a consideration is known only to Kay. Or perhaps he thinks he is toning down his act which would be even more disturbing considering his initial move on the open of his show on YES.

Kay has his shtick that he’s used ad nauseam since he arrived in the Yankees radio booth. From the over-descriptive “interlocking N and Y” as if he’s painting the word picture for someone who’d never ever seen the Yankees hats and uniforms; to the lame catchphrase of “See ya!!!” on a home run; to the “Lllllet’s do it!!” at the first pitch; to the recitation of Billy Joel lyrics to conclude each and every radio show as if he’s doing something different from the rest of the radio talk show world, it’s all about him and what he believes people want to hear from him.

If asked about it, Kay would undoubtedly say, “The fans expect it from me.” It’s irrelevant whether or not he’s aware that the expectation lies more in the reality that he’s the goofy, annoying guy at the party with the lampshade on his head thinking people are laughing at his antics when the truth is they’re laughing because he’s making an idiot of himself and they’re too used to it to tell him to leave.

He enjoys hearing his own voice and insinuating himself into the moment as if the treasured memories of fans extends to his voicing of the narrative. Derek Jeter hits a home run for his 3,000th career hit? The moment has to be endured rather than enjoyed with Kay’s voiceover reading from a prepared and sickening speech about Jeter’s greatness. The Yankees win game 1 of the 2010 ALCS in a startling comeback over the Rangers? Kay takes that as his cue to pronounce the series over after the first game against a very good team that eventually wound up dumping the Yankees in six games. Joe Torre takes on Kay during his tenure as manager? Kay treats it as a personal affront and kicks Torre on the way out the door following his ouster claiming that he “protected” the former manager as if that was part of his stated job description.

His claims of objectivity are exposed as transient when the sets of rules by which he purports to base his analysis are conveniently ignored when the Yankees violate his principles. If it’s the Red Sox or Mets, there’s a “right” way to do things and for the most part, they don’t adhere to it. With the Yankees, there’s a separate, superior plane on which they walk because of their “rich tapestry of history.” Jose Reyes is removed from a game to win a batting title, and the Mets have gotten it “wrong” from “day one.” Bernie Williams does it and it’s glossed over for no reason other than he’s a Yankee.

You can’t be the objective analyst on the radio, then walk into the Yankees booth and blatantly push an organizational perspective as if he’s the game time front man of their PR department. You can’t be a friendly and nice guy off the air and then behave like a buffoon on the air when taking shots at the supposed competition.

That’s another dichotomy with Kay that is difficult to reconcile with the fool who took his pathetic and uncreative shot at Francesa: everyone who meets Kay off the air says he’s one of the nicest and most accommodating media people you could hope to meet. He’s friendly; he takes the time to talk to people; and is likable. Is that the real person? Is the radio personality staged? Or is it both? There are plenty of people in the media—in the New York market especially—who create an image of the generous, nice person and off the air they’re arrogant, condescending, dismissive and hypocritical.

Kay may believe that he got the YES gig because of his talents. In truth, he replaced Francesa because the organization wanted someone who was more in line with the club mandate of showing the Yankees in a positive light on the broadcast arm of their ministry of propaganda. Even with that, he could have begun the show in a positive manner. He could have said something to the tune of, “I know there are people who would prefer the other show to be seen in this timeslot; that many don’t even like me. But I’m here now and I hope you’ll give me a chance. I put on a good show. It’s a different show, but it’s good. The only way you’ll be able to decide is to listen objectively without any preconceived notions.” How would that have been viewed rather than tossing a bottle of Diet Coke in the garbage? He got attention he wanted, but it’s been universally lambasted. It wasn’t clever and it was gutless. Francesa himself summed it up when he replied to Newsday’s Neil Best’s query about it by saying, “Classless, loser move from two guys I have been burying in the ratings for over a decade.”

Like Francesa or not, he hit it right on the button.

If Kay’s intention was to give the new listeners and viewers a summary of what to expect from his YES show and wanted to do it in one brief and ill-advised move, mission accomplished. If YES isn’t already regretting their decision to choose brand loyalty over business, then they will be soon as Kay’s act destroys ratings and ruins what they built with Francesa over the course of his twelve years having his simulcast broadcast on their network. They won’t admit the mistake, but they made one. That became clear by 3:10 p.m. on February 3. Ten minutes after the start of a new era on the YES Network.




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The Breaking Bad Finale Mystery: Was It A Dream?

Media, Television

The neatness of the Breaking Bad finale has drawn intense scrutiny this week as has the question as to whether show creator Vince Gilligan tossed the world an unrealistic bone by letting Walter White get his revenge and die in his own way. In the New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum wrote with disappointment that the show either copped out on the reality of Walter’s behavior and fate or came up with a blatantly unrealistic ending that betrayed the show’s foundation. During the week, comedian Norm MacDonald took to Twitter and issued an extended series of tweets regarding the “dream.”

So did the ending happen or had Gilligan ventured into the realm of the ambiguous allegory subject to the viewer’s interpretation?

The problem here stems from the individual viewpoint of the purpose of the show. Is it about redemption? Is it about a wasted life and living for the day? Is it about realizing that a life in which one will be remembered fondly by loved ones even if he’s a vanilla non-entity is superior than being remembered as the criminal mastermind and a monster?

All of the above?

The interpretation is the key.

In his final meeting with wife Skyler, Walter admitted that the decision to become a methamphetamine manufacturer and eventual kingpin wasn’t done to provide support for his family after he was gone. It was to be the best at something and make up for his failed life. He either threw away his opportunity to become a billionaire with Gray Matter or it was taken away from him. This too depends on whose viewpoint you believe, Walter’s or the Schwartzes.

I believe that deep down, Walter hated Hank Schrader or at least held some unexpressed animosity toward him for his supposed “important” work he did as a DEA agent and that he looked down an Walt as a bookish wimp. That’s not to say he wanted him dead, but that he took pleasure in outsmarting him for a year while functioning right under his nose and using the brother-in-law relationship to further and maintain his empire.

Did Walter want to get revenge on the neo-Nazis for stealing his money and killing Hank? Did he want to free Jesse out of guilt for Jane and the other ways in which he tormented his partner after the months-long bout of realization, loneliness and self-loathing that existed in his head while he was in the snowy cabin in New Hampshire? Or did he just want to do the things he said he still had to do with those things being securing his family’s future, killing Lydia, Jack Welker, Todd and their gang? Freeing Jesse, making peace with Skyler, seeing his son and daughter and dying in his beloved lab without spending one day incarcerated for his level of crimes that would have netted him ten life sentences were also part of the final acts of a dying man. Simultaneously, he was still outsmarting everyone as he did for much of his brief tenure as the world’s best meth cook and brutal businessman.

Was the paranoid, “everyone’s against me” aspect of Walter coming to light? It’s natural to feel anger and blame people closest to us for our own failures. Most don’t take the steps that Walter did and destroy everything in his path in an end-of-life crisis masquerading as providing for his family’s future. Perhaps Walter convinced himself that he was doing it for his family until the bitter end when he looked into the mirror in that car, saw the “colossal wreck” that the poem Ozymandias mentions and admits that he did it all to prove something to himself. He did. For better and mostly for worse.

In the end, the true analysis might come down to one word and its inflection. MacDonald uses Walter saying the phrase, “I was alive,” as evidence that he’s close to death and is literally saying that he’s gone from this world. That would be viable if the phrase was said as, “I was alive.” I recollect Walter saying it as, “I was alive,” as if to say, “For once I wasn’t behaving as others thought I should behave; for once I was living rather than functioning as an empty – dead – automaton. Rather than teaching, being the good, geeky family man and dying unremarkable and unremembered as little more than a testament to wasted potential, I lived.”

That might be the key. Or it might not. It could come down to your individual beliefs. Do you want the end to have the full closure and the badder of the bad guys getting their comeuppance? Do you want Walter dying alone and freezing in the snow? Confirmation bias comes into play here and that, plus the interpretation, ethics and morals of the individual, might be exactly what Gilligan had in mind when he started the show in the first place.




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