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ESPN’s ‘The Six’ with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith is a boring flop 02.23.17 at 12:27 pm ET
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Michael Smith and Jemele Hill previously hosted "His & Hers" on ESPN2. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

Jemele Hill and Michael Smith previously hosted “His & Hers” on ESPN2. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

When ESPN first launched “The Six” with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, it was billed as a hipper version of “SportsCenter,” set to reclaim weeknight viewers who have fled the network’s outdated signature program. But in reality, the show is unimaginative and boring. There’s nothing edgy about it, unless you consider Smith’s proclivity to wear sneakers with his suit jacket to be wacky instead of forced.

Despite weeks of incessant on-air promotion, including a corny video that features Hill and Smith boogying to the 1988 hit, “It Takes Two,” ratings for the refurbished “SportsCenter” leave much to be desired. On Monday, three weeks after its debut, the show drew 568,000 viewers. That’s less than the 574,000 people who tuned into the 6:00 p.m. airing of “SportsCenter” on the same date one year ago.

Ratings for other ESPN programs are suffering as well. The audience for “Pardon the Interruption” was down 16 percent over the first two weeks of February compared to last year, giving “The Six” a depressed lead-in. But still, with all of the effort spent publicizing the show, the numbers are underwhelming –– just like the product.

At the start of Wednesday’s episode, Hill and Smith spent some time discussing DeMarcus Cousins’ debut press conference with the Pelicans. The most notable tidbit from the conversation was their insistence on calling him “Boogie,” as if they’re close pals. Smith went on to say he’s president of the “Free Boogie Fan Club,” while Hill giggled awkwardly.

Following a staid segment about Paul George’s future with the Pacers –– Smith kept calling him “PG” in a contrived attempt at informality –– the two moved on to Magic Johnson, who didn’t interview a black candidate for the Lakers’ general manager position before hiring agent Rob Pelinka. On The Undefeated, ESPN’s black-interest website, columnist Marc Spears quoted a couple of league executives who criticized Johnson for bypassing potential African-American applicants. Instead of responding with their own takes, Hill and Smith equivocated. They both said they “understand the frustration,” but also believe Johnson must do what he thinks is best for the organization.

“Jeanie [Buss] fired her blood brother. So if you don’t win enough games, she will fire her brother from another mother in a second,” Smith said.

It’s insulting to expect black sports commentators to feel strongly about race relations. But both hosts, especially Hill, have spoken passionately about the subject in the past. Last year, she hosted a televised town hall on ABC with President Barack Obama about race in America.

One of the apparent reasons why Hill enjoys a prominent role on ESPN is her willingness to engage on social issues. But yet, on “The Six,” she plays it down the middle.

And therein lies the biggest problem with the program: there’s nothing memorable about it. The discussions are stale, with Hill and Smith regurgitating talking points that are heard on ESPN throughout the day. Neither take a particularly strong stand on anything, and when they do, they usually side with the athlete in question. Somewhere along the line, ESPN decided to become a promotional vehicle for the players it covers. Hill and Smith, with their insistence on referring to NBA stars by their carefully branded nicknames, feed into that.

Hill and Smith don’t need to turn into screeching hyenas to have a successful talk show. But there must be some elements of provocation. The demonization of “hot take culture” has caused people to forget that nearly every popular sports pundit in history, from Howard Cosell to Michael Wilbon, has routinely shared strong opinions. Hill, who once said cheering for the Celtics is akin to calling Adolf Hitler a victim, is no stranger to controversy. While nobody is clamoring for Nazi analogies, it’s bizarre to see her play an even-tempered role. The show desperately needs a shot of adrenaline.

In order to generate interest, programs must give their audience something to reach to. Tedious segments, like Wednesday’s interminable discussion with analysts Jeff Goodman and Ryen Russillo about NBA trade rumors, don’t accomplish that. Those kinds of dry interviews are staples on indiscernible sports talk shows across the country. They shouldn’t be featured on a supposedly groundbreaking show that ESPN is counting on to help resurrect its “SportsCenter” franchise.

“The Six” is billed as innovative. But the truth is, you’ve seen it a million times before.

Read More: ESPN, Jemele Hill, Michael Smith,
Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Manny Ramirez released by Rangers 08.14.13 at 7:57 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WEDNESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Reds at Cubs, 2:10 p.m. (WGN)
MLB: Orioles at Diamondbacks, 3:40 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Pirates at Cardinals, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Softball: Little League World Series championship, 11 p.m. (ESPN2)
Soccer: Exhibition, U.S. vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2:25 p.m. (ESPN2)
Soccer: Exhibition, Mexico vs. Ivory Coast, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Golf: U.S. Amateur, 3 p.m. (TGC)

AROUND THE WEB:

‘€¢ The Rangers released Manny Ramirez from his minor league contract Tuesday, just over five weeks after he joined the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock, Texas.

“Based on our evaluation, there was not a spot for Manny on the club at this time,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “We released him so he could pursue other opportunities if he so chooses.”

Ramirez, 41, hit .259/.328/.370 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 30 games, but he was without a homer in his last 22 games. The onetime Red Sox star, whose career was derailed by penalties for performance-enhancing drugs after he left Boston, began the season in Taiwan but returned to the States for another chance at the majors. He has not played in the majors since a stint with the Rays in April 2011 that ended with him retiring rather than serve a 100-game suspension for a second positive drug test.

‘€¢ Police said Tuesday that the death of Braves fan Ronald Homer Jr. at Monday’s game in Atlanta appears to have been an accident. The 6-foot-6 Homer fell over a 42-inch railing about 85 feet to a parking lot below just as the game was set to begin following a rain delay of almost two hours.

Homer, 30, fell just after ending a phone call with his mother.

“He said, ‘I love you, mom,’ and I said, ‘I love you, too,’ and that was it,” Connie Homer told The Associated Press.

Said his father, Ronald Homer: “This is going to hurt us for the rest of our life. When you lose a kid, not only your kids but your best friend, too, it’s bad.”

The Braves showed a picture of Homer on the scoreboard and held a moment of silence before Tuesday’s game.

‘€¢ ESPN fired “Numbers Never Lie” co-host Hugh Douglas following the network’s investigation into an incident last week when Douglas allegedly threatened fellow host Michael Smith at a nightclub in Orlando. The pair were at a party as part of the National Association of Black Journalists Convention when, according to reports, an inebriated Douglas attempted to climb on stage to join the DJ and became incensed when Smith refused to help, calling him a “house [N-word]” and an “Uncle Tom” and grabbing Smith before others stepped in to separate them.

The 41-year-old Douglas, who played 10 seasons at defensive end in the NFL, joined ESPN in 2011.

Douglas sent out a tweet Tuesday afternoon that read: I am very disappointed to be leaving ESPN and will have more to say about this situation and my future at the appropriate time.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Aug. 14, 1991, which Red Sox reliever recorded his 30th save in a 2-1 win over the Indians, giving him six 30-save seasons in seven years (with three teams)?

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Hugh Douglas, Manny Ramirez, Michael Smith, Ronald Homer
Hugh Douglas reportedly pulled off air by ESPN after threatening co-host Michael Smith 08.07.13 at 8:27 am ET
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Hugh Douglas, a former Eagles defensive end who appears on the ESPN show “Numbers Never Lie,” was yanked off the air by the network after an altercation with show co-host Michael Smith over the weekend, according to a report at bigleadsports.com.

Douglas reportedly was inebriated during an event at the House of Blues in Orlando on Friday night and tried to get on the stage where a DJ was playing music. When Smith, a former Boston Globe reporter, refused to help, Douglas threatened him numerous times, calling him an “Uncle Tom” and a “house [N-word],” before onlookers broke it up and another ESPN employee pulled Douglas aside to calm him down. Douglas then left the party, which was a fundraiser hosted by the National Association of Black Journalists.

ESPN released a statement Sunday saying, “We are aware there was a disagreement between Hugh Douglas and Michael Smith on Friday. We are looking into the situation.”

Smith returned to “Numbers Never Lie” on Monday while Douglas was absent.

Douglas was a first-round draft pick of the Jets in 1995. After three seasons in New York, he spent five years with the Eagles and one season with the Jaguars before closing out his 10-year career with a final year in Philadelphia as part of the Eagles team that lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.

Read More: Hugh Douglas, Michael Smith,