Earlier this week, news broke that ESPN analyst Craig James’ entry into the race for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas was imminent. While ESPN said after the report that James hadn’t informed the network of his intentions, he’s pretty clearly had a political bent for some time, and at this point it would be a surprise if he didn’t run for office.
James, you might know, is one of ESPN’s most widely-disliked broadcasters. There’s the fact that he’s regularly called out for adding little of value to broadcasts, making bizarre decisions when voting in the polls, or making spectacularly incorrect Heisman voting predictions.
And then there’s the biggest source of James-hate: Mike Leach’s firing at Texas Tech, which revolved around alleged mistreatment of James’ son Adam, a receiver on the team. Craig James hired a PR firm to try to get Leach fired, and additionally, the controversy made collateral damage out of respected ESPN college football reporter Bruce Feldman. Feldman left ESPN for CBS after a book he wrote with Leach – that was highly critical of Craig James – caused an in-house stir.
So a lot of people really, really don’t like Craig James. Why, then, might his running for Senate actually be a good thing? Well, in a terrific piece for Fox Sports, Jen Floyd Engel lays it out. Engel, a Texan, is willing to take on the extremely slight chance of James representing her state in Washington…because this might get him off college football broadcasts:
This serves two purposes of the greater college football good as far as I can tell:
1. Removing him from ESPN college football broadcasts immediately.
2. Rendering him toxic and thereby untouchable for another network if he runs and loses.
Of course, it might not necessarily work this way. One, if James wins and is actually charged with legislating and helping determine the direction of the United States, then maybe Engel suddenly doesn’t like this plan to get him off the air quite as much. Second, if he does lose, he wouldn’t necessarily be toxic. Maybe it wouldn’t happen immediately, but he has name recognition, and if he loses in a campaign (relatively) devoid of scandal and ugliness, he might be abe to resurface somewhere eventually.
But for now, if James really runs, he can’t continue at ESPN. We have to imagine the last thing the network would want to do is get itself caught up in a high-profile political race, and it’s doubtful James would have the time to contribute anything to the network anyway. There’s been a prominent hashtag on twitter for a while now that reads, simply, #firecraigjames. Well, maybe this isn’t quite a firing, but as long as James makes his expected run, he’ll have removed himself from the air for a significant chunk of time at the least. And as Engel plainly showed today, for many, many college football viewers out there, any method that gets James off the air works just fine.