The more we know, the less we like

Read about the introductory class of the Bad Football Broadcasters Hall Of Fame here.

Additional members now include Joe BuckPhil Simms, and Gary Danielson.

Today, we add…

Craig James

The Lone Star Guardian Angel

The Lone Star Guardian Angel

We can honestly say that we have never encountered anyone who misses Craig James’ color commentary on ESPN Thursday Night College Football games.

Nobody longing for his input, his precise, cognizant analysis, his likable personality and easy-going nature, his warm camaraderie with the others broadcasting the game with him, his hilarious stories from his playing days at SMU and how he managed to maintain an unblemished, all-American image and unassailable amateur status while playing amidst the huge scandal that evolved during his days there, and, of course, him recalling highlights from his Hall of Fame NFL career.

Okay, maybe we’re being harsh. We shouldn’t make judgments or sweeping assumptions about someone we have never met– something Craig has never done and would probably never do, especially regarding people that are less privileged or share different viewpoints from his own.

When Craig James was at SMU, he was part of their “Pony Express” one-two running back punch with Eric Dickerson.

Of course their fairy tale tenure at Southern Methodist was shattered when the NCAA handed down the stiffest sanctions in history– issuing the needlessly dramatic but almost literally correct “death penalty” to the Dallas school. They have only recently recovered from this after twenty odd years, under the stewardship of head coach June Jones. We never felt the sanctions were fair, not because SMU was innocent, but because the investigation and the punishment were more a result of a very corrupt and selective NCAA and a cabal of jealous larger schools (Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Arkansas, etc.) trying to derail an ambitious upstart (who in the short term were cheating better than they were) rather than pursuing any real quest for justice.

Craig doesn’t like talking about the scandal at SMU– one of the few things you can shut him up about. He used to refuse to discuss his own role in the bribes and gifts that were handed out. He would bristle at any suggestion that he had done anything wrong. Then, when confronted with overwhelming evidence, he finally admitted accepting gifts.

We do recall him talking about his alma mater once though, during a Thursday Night telecast, he pooh-poohed the hiring of June Jones at SMU as the man to turn around the program then offered vague reasons about hating the spread offense and how you can only win with a solid running game. Of Course! Yes, only the great Craig James knows the solutions to all football and (and as we found out later) societal problems– and that is usually a “one size fits all” approach.

Craig worked many jobs before ending up on ESPN Thursday Night Football, though that is where we best remember him.

Listening to Craig James commentate over several years is much akin to going through the seven stages of grief without achieving the second phase of the crucial seventh stage– acceptance and hope.

When Doug Flutie joined the Thursday Night telecasts, a two-man booth became a three-man booth and things got interesting. Now we all now that Flutie can be a bit of a slickster, and he isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but two things became readily apparent:

  1. Doug Flutie was much more famous than Craig James, and garnered much more attention from the fans during their travels and at the actual football games.
  2. Doug Flutie was a much, much better color commentator & analyst. Even Miami Hurricane fans could see this.

None of this sat too well with Craig… but there wasn’t too much he could do about it. Flutie made people realize how deprived they had been of actual decent football analysis on Thursday Night Games and just how patently inarticulate and inadequate Craig James really was.  Flutie completely overshadowed James in the booth, who just couldn’t converse in critical discussion or contribute meaningfully, so he mostly just stuck to monosyllabic grunts and his own tired clichés. He could barely masque his resentment at sharing his gig with “Mr. Heisman, The Throw, The Catch, Multiple Grey Cup Winning, too good to be true, want your daughter to marry him boy next door, Horatio Alger returning to the NFL, overcoming the ‘He’s too Short!’ mantra he heard all his life by embracing the positive aspects of the Napoleon complex all-American.”

After a few months or so, Craig started to fight back. He obviously did more homework and fact checking before games but he also started to make strange assessments of things going on in games. He tried to appear more intelligent by using bigger words and deliberately disagreeing with Flutie on picayune details and irrelevant items. People noticed and James came off as a petty, patronizing, needlessly interrupting and incorrigible troublemaker. Flutie has his own issues of inflated ego and self aggrandizement but sitting in a booth next to James, he actually garnered sympathy from the audience.

Despite Craig’s best efforts, the Flutie-James sparring was still mighty one-sided, in favor of the Pied Piper of Boston College (not quite Larry Holmes-Tex Cobb one-sided, but at least in the Artie Lang-Joe Buck undercard arena of one-sided.) Craig’s pettiness and his lack of logic in these “discussions” made many in the audience think that Richard Dent and Mike Singletary must have hit him more in that Super Bowl than the cameras showed. They wished he would just go away forever to his Texas hideaway and pursue his preferred hobby of hunting defenseless mammals and birds.

Unfortunately this entertainment all ceased when Flutie was promoted with a larger salary– jumping from ESPN to ABC Saturday Football.

James was (and still might even be) an AP Voter. When his college football poll voting record became public, people found out that he was the worst voter in the poll as far as logic and fairness is concerned. Smaller schools that were undefeated were always rated ridiculously low by James. Undefeated Boise, Hawaii, TCU & Utah were always rated far below one and two loss BCS Schools. Based on the calculations, his ridiculously low ranking of Boise State one year singularly cost them a place in the National Championship Game and several other schools a shot at BCS money.

When asked if he had ever watched the non-automatic qualifiers play or if he understood that they could not improve their schedules when big schools refuse to play them, he muttered that that isn’t his fault,things are just the way they are, there is no need to change anything, that his rankings are never wrong, and that he didn’t need to put much time into it.

Yes, Craig. You’re a flippant, patronizing simpleton who often commented on the air how you would rather be out killing something on one of your hunting trips than commenting on football. We didn’t think your spare time would be spent visiting a museum, reading a real book or watching a tape of some college football teams that you haven’t actually ever seen play.

The biggest mess involving James was his involvement in the firing of Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach. Apparently Craig was concerned about the treatment and playing time of his spoiled brat son Adam James who was a second or third string wide receiver on the Red Raiders.

This story is too long and bizarre to totally cover here,  but Leach is still fighting the University and James in the courts over his dismissal.

Craig James, according to Leach, was the worst parent his coaching staff had ever encountered. They spent more time dealing with him than all the other parents combined.  He said his son Adam was not a hard worker and acted like he was a royal prince– acting with a ridiculously elevated aura of entitlement, flaunting his wealth, name-dropping incessantly and exaggerating his access to celebrities with his teammates.

There were constant phone calls to the head coach, offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach demanding to know why his son wasn’t playing more. James had connections and had meetings with administrators. Boosters got involved. (Also, Texas Tech administrators and the new AD did not want to pay Leach’s new big contract from the last AD– politics everywhere!)

Craig would helicopter into Lubbock like some pathetic embarrassment of a stage mother and stand on the sidelines, constantly carping into the coaches ears about the playing time of his precious son.  Finally, Leach ordered that despite the political consequences, the coaches would take no more phone calls and cut off contact from Craig James.

His son then showed up at practice on the field in civilian clothes claiming to have a concussion, wearing sunglasses with his hat on backwards, joking around and being a distraction to his teammates who were trying to practice. When Leach said he should be kept out of the light, so as not to exacerbate the migraines he claimed to be suffering from, the trainer took him to a storage shack with an ice machine and told him to lie down, checking on him every fifteen minutes.

But Adam who had complained about Leach and the coaches just days ago, threatening them that something should be done about their bad coaching, saw an opportunity. He got on his camera phone and broadcast pictures of his predicament across the Internet,  likening his situation to some sort of “Prisoner of Zenda, Man In the Iron Masque, Internment in Stalag 17”– the Lubbock version.

Well, Craig took to his pulpit and his big microphone. More phone calls were made and Mike Leach was eventually fired. To hear James pontificate the injustice of it all, we were surprised that Leach wasn’t charged with child slavery, torture and just being a big meanie.

Several years later, Texas Tech fans are still angry and almost everyone blames the manipulative Craig James and his spoiled brat son’s unsympathetic attitude of entitlement.

Craig wasn’t only wrong about June Jones being successful at SMU (4 straight bowl appearances), he also thought he should/would be the man to lead America from its current state of economic stagflation and moral sin to the promised land of trickle down economic nirvana and evangelical ascension as a Republican Senator from Texas.

After Kay Bailey Hutchison resigned in 2011, he felt he must leave television to pursue his higher calling.

So Craig quit his easy gig at ESPN calling football games to be the Messiah from Jacksonville, Texas. (ESPN,0 for its part, appeared relieved to have James leave. They issued a very boiler plate press release.The negative publicity from his role in the Texas Tech fiasco did not please them.)

He campaigned on a predictable platform of:

“Less Taxes, less government involvement in healthcare, less Taxes, less government, less taxes, less regulation, less of more, less taxes, traditional marriage, less taxes, the need for a new American Revolution (since he thought current conditions were similar to 1765… huh?), less taxes, replacing Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique in all Texas libraries with Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives and, oh yeah, gays are not born homosexual, but choose their degenerate sexuality and will all burn in Hell for their sins!

In the end, Helicopter Padre finished a distant fourth in the Republican Primary with only 4% of the vote. Even Luddite Flat Earther Creationists from the Tea Party extremes in the Texas Panhandle could not come to grips with him.

Despite his fame in football-mad Texas, his celebrity profile and even his founding of some enlightened organization called “Texans for a Better America,” people chose to ignore his tiresome message.

Early in his career, Ronald Reagan was out-acted by a chimpanzee in “Bedtime for Bonzo” and “Bonzo Goes to College”– but he learned from that, became an accomplished “B” Actor, went into politics, climbed the ladder from Governor to President and learned you can accomplish a lot– all the way to the Oval Office.

But he learned that to become “The Great Communicator,” you must refine your message. If you see the world in simple terms, relate that to simple people in even simpler terms and open every sentence with a warm and welcoming “Well!”

We’re not sure Craig James could beat a chimpanzee in a game of Twenty Questions, Battleship, Hangman, or even Tic Tac Toe.

We wouldn’t expect someone with Craig’s enlightened intellectual perspective to read and appreciate a critical history of The Sherman Anti-Trust Act but if he harbors serious political aspirations, he should probably be encouraged to experience different cultures in person and not base his perceptions solely on the characters he’s seen on television in professional wrestling.

Despite all his years in the public eye, Craig has not seemed to learn too much about communicating and connecting with people, despite founding and operating another eponymously named egocentric vocational something called the “Craig James School of Broadcasting.” That’s right– the same one Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Edward R. Murrow, Ron Burgundy and Clip Smith all attended!

According to the respected and unbiased “Public Policy Polling” the assessment of his performance in the Texas Republican Primary election was:

“As Craig James has become better known, he’s gotten more and more unpopular.”

This year in September, Craig was hired by Fox Sports Southwest. The ink wasn’t dry on the contract (in fact Fox claims a contract was never signed)  before he was fired! The reason?  They were put off by his extreme political and religious views, which it seems they had only recently discovered.  Fox claims that he was not properly vetted before being hired, and had they known about his stand on homosexuals they would not have hired him and risk workplace legal issues.

Craig James has sued, claiming persecution, citing religious discrimination and violation of his fundamental Constitutional rights.

(We agree. ZHis situation should definitely be considered in the same light as Thomas More, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther, Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela and Joan of Arc }

He might have a case and, in the end, the viewpoints and resulting publicity that got him fired from Fox Sports will probably get him hired on Fox News as an expert political commentator– except that not many people care about anything he has to say so he probably doesn’t create enough buzz for them.

We believe that Craig James should not be fired for his personal, religious or political beliefs, no matter how counterproductive, misinformed, divisive or wrong that they may be. He didn’t really express the most controversial of them on the air during football games and they likely are his own true beliefs.

Craig James should be fired for being a terrible analyst.

His lecturing rants are tiresome, his verbal observations are mostly regurgitated cliché. He engages in petty, meaningless and vindictive arguments on the air, his patronizing arrogance is off-putting because it obviously exceeds the grasp of his restricted intellect. He isn’t funny or entertaining and his personality sucks.

If he never gets another job in broadcasting (unlikely!), we won’t miss him at all.

After all, the Westboro Baptist Church Family Values Football League is currently in need of experienced individuals to broadcast their touch football games.

Nothing sums up Craig James and his current situation better than these curt, biting, cut to the bone, cynical lyrics written by 65 year old street fighter Phil Mogg, and sung with his trademark seething acerbic zeal and appropriate disdain in the Anglo/German/US hard rock Legends UFO– still touring & recording after 40 years.

“Miss the Lights” ( Schenker-Mogg )

A walking tour full of Tedious Charm,
As smooth as any tan,
The desert boys all cross their palms,
Don’t you know who I am?


I guess you miss the Lights? Huh!
I guess you miss the Fame,
I guess you miss Everybody
Hanging onto your Name, …..

Little Caesar is Prince of the City,
Hubris taking hold,
In this town, there’s no Pity,
This Man stands Alone!

I guess you miss the Lights? – ha! ha!
I guess you miss the Fame,
I guess you miss Everybody
Hanging onto your Name, …..

Sometimes when you’re all alone,
And the blue turns to gray, ……
Better get down on those pinky knees,
and start to Pray, ………

I guess you miss the Lights? – ha!
I guess you miss the Fame,
I guess you miss Everybody
Kiss-kissing your Name, …..


The glittering fade of a Twilight Star,
And so much Love for Show,
An Attorney wave from a gallery bar
And the shabby afterglow, ……

I guess you miss the Lights?
I guess you miss the Fame,
I guess you miss Everybody
Hanging onto your Name, …..
I guess you miss the Lights?
I guess you miss the Fame, ha! ha!
I guess you miss Everybody
Hanging onto your Name, …..

(fade out music and chorus)

I guess you miss the Lights?
I guess you miss Everybody
Kiss-kissing your Name, ….

Kiss! Kiss It! Kiss It!

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