Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Where's Brent Musburger's Super Bowl Ring?"

That's what UC Berkeley professor Harry Edwards said to me 20 years ago when I asked why Musburger, then the primary voice of the TV sports following Howard Cosell, was the lone non-player in the broadcast booth during games. African Americans -- in those days -- had to bring major playing credentials to get an opportunity to analyze the game they played. Watching Michael Wilbon dissecting NBA Finals games between the Magic and Lakers should serve as an inspiration to those blacks and other people of color who know the game but have not had the good fortune or talent to play the game.

While networks have hired analysts such Seth Davis (CBS college basketball), Tom Verducci (MLB Network) or Tony Kornheiser (who recently left ESPN's Monday Night Football) to analyze games, African Americans have mostly been left out of this opportunity, creating the perception that blacks couldn't talk the game unless they played the game. Wilbon and Stephen A. Smith before him have dispelled those stereotypes, giving more people of color credibility in analyst positions.

ESPN may be heavily criticized at times for creating the storylines they report, but they deserve credit for allowing black journalists -- such as Jemele Hill and Rob Parker -- to display their sports expertize in debates against the combative Skip Bayless on "First Take."

And adding Wilbon to the booth for NBA coverage was a major step for sports television that shouldn't be ignored. And hopefully there are more people of color who know the game to follow because their voice deserves to be heard. Diversity is beautiful.