A lot has been written, by smarter basketball people than myself, about ESPN's NBA Countdown show. Count me among those who don't like the idea of doing a sports talk show without a traditional host. I watched through a lot of years of NBC not having a host for their NHL studio show, and it was terrible. A good studio host -- Ernie Johnson, Karl Ravech, Curt Menefee, Liam McHugh -- is not only knowledgeable about their sport, but can act as an entry point into two or three analysts alike entrenched within the culture of the sport. It seems rude to compare a person to a velvet rope, but the studio hosts are the people who should be getting you behind it.
It was a little surprising then that, in an extensive, typically well-written feature by Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch, coordinating producer Amina Hussein claimed to feel "pretty good" about keeping the foursome of Magic Johnson (never as good on TV as you want), Jalen Rose (who, in my limited exposure, comes off as the potential breakout star of the group), Michael Wilbon (whose presence on this show, yet not as a traditional host, is baffling) and Bill Simmons (fine as you'd expect) will be together next season. In the same article, however, Simmons wasn't so sure. The Grantland editor-in-chief may scale back a bit next year.
"I need to re-evaluate things this summer and figure out the best way to spend my time," Simmons said. "I was doing too many things these last eight months. I never wanted to become 'That Guy' and I don't want my daughter to hate me. She just turned eight and might turn against me just because I missed one soccer game or something. Little girls hold grudges. So I'm going to talk it over with my family and let them decide what I should do. It's going to play out like a bad sitcom pilot that ABC would reject."
Simmons clearly hasn't seen that Tim Allen show, then. "The Sports Guy" would be a loss for NBA Countdown, as he and Rose are the crux of what's likable about the show, and started to hit on something really good around the time they began doing streaming analysis of the NCAA Tournament on Grantland. Countdown definitely has the pieces for a solid show, considering everyone behind it is realistic about not emulating the immortal Inside the NBA. Drop Magic, and make Wilbon -- who can both analyze basketball and has the most traditional TV experience -- the host and you've got a show. That is, if Simmons returns.