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So much for loyalty

Two things have come up in the last few days about which I feel compelled to comment.....

Here's the first: NBC decided that keeping Jay Leno in the fold to host a 10:00 PM version of his "Tonight Show" would revolutionize prime-time television, and NBC was to be congratulated for determining that hiring Jay at an ungodly salary would still be cheaper than paying the freight on five one-hour dramas to fill the Monday-Friday 10:00 PM time slot. This was all decided AFTER they had committed the traditional "Tonight Show" slot several years ago to Conan O'Brien, who replaced David Letterman in the 12:35 AM time slot several years ago. All Conan did was exactly what he was told: present a mostly funny show, close it out, move himself, his family, his on-air team and his writing and producing staff to southern California (because that's where the "Tonight Show" is done, you know).

In the interest of full disclosure, note that I was always a Letterman fan, so when NBC turned on him in favor of Jay Leno so many years ago, I went with Dave to CBS and on those rare occasions when I'm up that late, I watch Letterman. Jay was never that funny to me, still isn't, and Conan isn't bad but he's very much an acquired taste, in my opinion.

So, if you've read the recent articles, NBC last week announced it had cancelled Leno's revolutionary prime-time show and publicly proposed creating a 30 minute slot for Jay at 11:35. That's if O'Brien goes along and agrees to move the "Tonight Show" to 12:05. Conan announced yesterday that he doesn't really think that it's still the same show if it airs at 12:05 AM, so the ball's back in NBC's court. What a mess, and it serves NBC right. This is, after all, the same network that screwed David Letterman many years ago, cancelled "Hill Street Blues" so many years ago and had to be prodded to leave "Seinfeld" alone to find an audience, which eventually became universally hailed as one of the best sitcoms ever.

Now to my second exhibit: Lane Kiffin, the one-and-done head football coach at the University of Tennessee. This young man of 34 has already found ways to alienate an NFL owner and now the entire fan base of one of the southeast's best-known (for sports) universities. In agreeing to leave Tennessee after one year to go back to the University of Southern California as head football coach Kiffin demonstrates in one majestic swoop what's wrong with major sports. Let's remember that he was unemployed (and deemed by some unemployable) last year around this time when Tennessee boldly offered him their head coaching position. No ties to the southeast, where college football is a way of life and recruiting is the the life blood of that way of life. Yet in he came, with lots of noise and bluster and braggadocio and NCAA and SEC reprimands and now he claims he's leaving Tennessee better than he found it. My read is that Knoxville, TN wasn't a big enough pond for this fish.

What I find particularly amusing is that at USC Kiffin will replace Pete Carroll, a longtime NFL head coach and assistant, who decided that it would be better to take the money and go back to the NFL rather than stick around to see what the NCAA has in store for the Trojan Nation at USC. Rumors have abounded for years that Carroll and his staff (many of whom will now return to USC under Kiffin) had played fast and loose with the rules and regulations surrounding student-athlete recruitment, so Carroll's getting out before the hammer falls.

Contrast that with the classy tenure and graceful departure of Rich Brooks, Kentucky's recently retired head football coach. Need I say more?

One more aside that really isn't tied to loyalty: I find Mark McGwire to lack credibility in his recent "apologies" about his steroid use, as he's almost acting as though he didn't have a choice, he only used it in small doses, etc. Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote a fine column recently on this and similar situations, and I agree with Paul: I'm done with all of these "contrite" athletes and their "apologies" and how they're "ready to move on." I am, too.


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