Bernie Kosar, Peter King and our broken culture

11959204-largeJoe Banner and the Browns did exactly what they should have done once the Bernie Kosar commentary story became a national headline. From the Browns’ perspective — and Joe Banner’s specifically —  he’s in the business of making the Browns the best he can make them, all while protecting the league overall. If criticizing some “questionable phrases” is what it takes to make sure the Rams and Jeff Fisher wouldn’t have ill will in a trade scenario with Banner in the future, then that’s exactly what Banner should do.

Ultimately, my problem with this whole Bernie Kosar situation isn’t with Bernie, Joe Banner, Peter King or even Jeff Fisher. I have a problem with us as a culture overall.

Bernie Kosar was telling jokes. Maybe they were bad jokes, but it wasn’t serious analysis when Kosar bemoaned his obligation to watch Kellen Clemens play quarterback in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL contest. Yes, Bernie thinks that Clemens is lacking as a player, but that’s secondary to what he was commenting on over the weekend. Bernie Kosar was talking to a local Cleveland TV audience and trying to make them laugh. You wouldn’t know this at all if you read the print accounts of this story nationally.

And that’s really the point: This wasn’t a national telecast with one-sided commentary.1 Browns fans have come to be used to Kosar’s one-sided pre-season commentary.2 He’s also ridiculously protective of quarterbacks over other position groups at times. It’s the pre-season though and the biggest joke in the NFL is the fact that fans have to pay money to see these meaningless games. And yet these same games are now important enough that what Bernie Kosar says about guys playing in the fourth quarter to an all Cleveland audience is making headlines?

Which brings me to Peter King’s account of how it all went down in his MMQB column this morning. King seems to justify all his noise on the issue because the Browns and Bernie Kosar have apologized. “My point was, I think there’s a way to be critical of players and teams, and analysts should definitely do that,” King said. “But Kosar went too far, in my opinion. And not just mine. Kosar called Rams coach Jeff Fisher Sunday to apologize, and Browns CEO Joe Banner said Sunday the Browns “don’t condone the personal and unprofessional approach” Kosar used.”

See, everyone? I was right because the Browns and Bernie Kosar apologized! I don’t mean to pick on Peter King either because I love his column and think he’s arguably the best NFL reporter in the league. This isn’t about him except as a symptom for what’s wrong with our culture at times.

Bernie Kosar and the Browns got called on a national stage for something that was said locally. Was it harsh? Yeah, but again it was really more about going for a laugh in a meaningless game. It probably did go a bit too far, but that’s what comedy — even some bad varieties — tend to do. Kosar and the Browns were basically threatened and shamed into apologizing for something that was deliberately used out of its proper context as a local broadcast for Clevelanders.

While King and others go on platitudes about what analysis should be, they’re apparently trying to hold Bernie Kosar to the same standards that Dan Dierdorf is held to on a national CBS broadcast of a regular season NFL game. If that’s what pre-season broadcasts are supposed to be like then it’s news to me. What’s next? Are we going to start micro-analyzing things that Doug Dieken says on regular season local radio broadcasts and call him out for being a homer on occasion? We’ve already seen some of that in baseball when Tom Hamilton came under fire for getting upset that Aroldis Chapman threw at Nick Swisher. Someday, maybe that will happen too, but it will be just as disingenuous. At least Tom Hamilton didn’t have to pretend to be sorry about it.

And that, in the end, is what bugs me the most. We’re putting up with this intellectually dishonest grandstanding and pretending like we actually care.

I talked to Scott Raab about watching NFL AM and their hypocritical stance. They did a special one-on-one session to talk about Bernie Kosar’s “inappropriate” comments before going to their next feature where they re-broadcast negative tweets about Mark Sanchez calling him “megafumble.” Then the female host went off on Sanchez’ physical appearance commenting negatively about his fu manchu facial hair. I know it’s a morning show and not a game broadcast, but it’s a national morning show aimed at NFL fans across the entire country.

Again, it doesn’t bother me that they decided to do that segment, but they and we have no idea what we’re doing. We need to just admit it. We don’t know where we’re going anymore as a culture. We’re a chicken with our head cut off. The information is too much, too fast and we end up standing for nothing because we stand for everything. You know, except when we don’t. We’re hypercritical of certain things and make mountains out of molehills when it’s convenient for us as we give gravity to topics that don’t deserve them. We’re so inconsistently selective that our morals and ethics no longer have any meaning. We use the same tones and plays from the playbook to talk about Bernie Kosar that we do to talk about Aaron Hernandez.

And so we’ll continually get what we deserve from our entertainment ventures. Then when the person with the biggest and, most importantly, easiest platform shames someone into apologizing for something they might not actually be sorry for, it will all be a big glad-handing celebration of false moral standing. It will be a moral standing that we really can’t begin to claim for ourselves due to our inconsistency, insincerity and overwhelming sense of self-importance. I know it’s just football and entertainment, but this whole thing was supposed to be fun and we’ve turned it into something more.

I’m going to just stop thinking about it before I get more depressed.

Photo: John Kuntz, The Plain Dealer 

  1. Browns fans know those all too well though as this awful team has been described by national color commentators—Rich Gannon, for instance—who seem to take glee in their ineptitude. []
  2. Admit it. We wondered to ourselves if he was drunk the first few times we heard him broadcast. []
  • SteveinBrooklyn

    Haha! Indeed. Just got done watching that.

  • Cleveland Frowns

    Disappointing and telling that the author can’t muster a response here, nor to Kolonich’s question above.

  • mgbode

    it’s not well documented that Kellen Clemens struggles as as a QB at the NFL level?

  • mgbode

    seems to be waning. perhaps someone can instagram a pic of a browns player who happened to wear yellow with black someone else in their ensemble. best if it’s a “bubble” roster player because obviously that should be the decision maker.

  • mgbode


    (ah, we found our new outrage. so happy I didn’t have to even leave the thread. makes life so much simpler)

  • Cleveland Frowns

    Nothing gets the WFNY echo-chamber fired up like an attempt to assess the worth of ideas published here.

  • Craig Lyndall

    The author? The writer? How objectifying. :-)

    Hi Pete (and Dave.) I was busy today. I covered training camp (4 PM-6:30,) grabbed a quick Subway sandwich (6:45 PM,) drove cross town to the east side, put my kids to bed (7:30 PM – 8 PM) wrote up training camp (8:00 – 8:20 PM) and then went to see Elysium at 10 PM so I could podcast about it later in the week. (Hi Brian.) I’m spending about as much time on this site as I possibly can already.

    I was commenting on all the cultures mentioned in the post. Sports, media, a wider apology/ false outrage culture which I’ve talked about here and on the podcast before, maybe a touch of entertainment and a bit on news culture as much as sports can be considered real news. Maybe I should have just called it sports culture in the headline, but it felt bigger than that by the time I was done.

    I’m always happy to discuss things. I’m also pretty open to defending my point.

  • Scott @ WFNY

    How dare you not drop everything and “answer” these pertinent questions. Quite ironic given the topic of contrivedd outrage and demands of apology.

  • Cleveland Frowns

    Thanks for the update, but this really doesn’t answer any of the questions raised above. It doesn’t mean much to say there’s “a wider apology/false outrage culture,” and that this Kosar/King/Fisher kerfuffle is a symptom of such a thing, without giving some idea about what you suppose is causing the bigger problem, and what could/should be done about it. So again, why isn’t this any more than just King and Fisher overreacting? Why is our whole culture going on trial for this specific overreaction and what’s the solution? And where does this post fit in? Why is your “moral outrage” here any more legitimate than King’s/Fisher’s?

    By my reading, all you’re taking from this incident, and all that you’re asking the reader to take, is a general frustration with media criticism in general, while failing to acknowledge that the quality of ideas matters and that media criticism is a legitimate pursuit if properly executed. Like, “See! The fact that these guys went after Bernie shows that everything sucks and that people should lighten up!” This, to me, is an unhealthy response to the whole thing, and all the more suspect because it’s in easy reaction to criticism of a “hometown hero” like Bernie. And I suppose you could just say that my comment here is just the product of “a wider apology/false outrage culture,” which would help prove my point.

  • Cleveland Frowns

    Yes, quite ironic. I see now that outrage and indignation is OK as long as it’s WFNY writers who are expressing it. Well done, Scotty. As the guy who couldn’t muster an apology for his “LeBron is Osama Bin Laden” column, I’m sure this all hits close to home for you.

  • Holdenbeach1

    A local broadcast only to the Cleveland audience is no longer local when it is broadcast on the NFL network.

    Being in Atlanta I watched the Saturday morning rebroadcast there.

    I enjoyed listening to Bernie talk about coverages and play calling. He wandered off the topic of football and into his personal disappointment in Kellen Clemens’ lack of production/capability as a QB in the NFL. I appreciated his candor, but he sounded kind of dickish.

    The NFL is a socialist collective of 32 capitalist ventures. The story, controversy, apology cycle can best be described as “rinse, lather, repeat”.

    Let’s all move along, there is nothing more to see here.

  • Scott @ WFNY

    More apologies!!!

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Yes…and that truly is sad. Especially when I saw nothing wrong with his comments. I’m a guy who loves a good debate too. I could not take an intelligent approach to an opposing view and come up with anything that sounded reasonably arguable for his comments. I had to stretch it some to attempt to justify being an upset catholic.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    What do his issues have to do with the Rams players (specifically the WR’s with their drops and Clemens play in general) inability to make smart football plays?

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I’m Jewish, so when someone made that argument this morning I thought perhaps I’m just not familiar with Catholicism enough to understand that one, but I didn’t originally think that was offensive. Just an attempt at humor. The rest I thought was perhaps not particularly professional, but certainly no worse than stuff you hear from other ‘homer’ announcers or color commentators who make poor jokes.

  • Dave Kolonich

    You can’t be both IN the media, yet removed enough from it to offer a media critique. That’s now how it works. Otherwise, you’ve just positioned yourself as the moral center of our “culture.” That’s a pretty weighty thing for any “blog” to pull off.

  • Dave Kolonich

    “not” how it works….

  • Scott @ WFNY

    “Blog” in quotes, eh? Fancy.

    As Craig has stated, this isn’t wholly media critique just as much as it isn’t a Bernie Kosar issue. It’s a larger, more macro issue surrounding this systemic, cultural universe where people (comedians, commentators, writers, take your pick…) are forced to apologize for every perceived misstep, regardless of context or audience.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    My mom (and all of her sisters) were raised Catholic. Only the absolute hardcore religious type could have claimed blasphemy…and I don’t know that many hardcore religious types that watch football. So… LOL

    Overall, it truly was much ado about nothing.

  • mgbode

    you make me laugh, i’ll give you that much.