Channel 2 backup sportscaster Jonah Javad is a love-or-hate kind of personality.
Some viewers love his attitude and his pop culture attempts to be clever.
Others find him arrogant and believe he is constantly trying to call attention to himself in a childish way.
Javad called attention to himself again Sunday night when he wrote a graphic after the Buffalo Bills defeated the Minnesota Vikings that read: “Bills Play Like Garbage, Beat Vikings 17-16.”
Even before I confirmed that Javad had written the graphic, a colleague speculated that it had Javad written all over it because it had his attitude and neediness for attention.
Sure enough, Javad got the attention first from the website Deadspin, which lives off of attitude. It carried the graphic with the headline: “One TV Station is Willing to Tell the Truth.”
Javad was so proud of his Deadspin attention that he tweeted “I don't mince words. And if you don't know, now you know” before adding a link to the Deadspin report.
With the knowledge that I am giving him more attention, I will weigh in on Javad’s desperate cry for attention.
There is no doubting he has talent.
In April, Javad won a New York State Emmy Award competing with all the New York City stations. In September, I called him the strongest backup on the air, though I added he reaches too often with his references.
Back then, I mentioned a reference he made to Tyler Durden, the character played by Brad Pitt in the movie “Fight Club.” I’m not sure many got the reference, although anchor Maryalice Demler did and immediately told the audience that it showed that she is cooler than you would think.
His boss, Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner, seemed to be cool with Javad's "garbage" graphic.
“It may have not been the exact word I would have chosen, but if your question is, am I ok with a sports anchor injecting opinion into a graphic, the answer is a firm yes," wrote Toellner in an email. "I think most would categorize the game as a rather ugly win. If you watched the report there was plenty of celebratory content on the last minute comeback victory drive. There was also plenty of ‘no punches pulled’ opinion which continued in Sports Extra. You have criticized others for being too straight forward, team cheerleading and boring reports; you can’t have it both ways Alan. . If there is anywhere in a Local Television Newscast that begs for opinion it is Sports!”
True, I have often called for opinions in sports reports. I have repeatedly praised Channel 2 Sports Director Adam Benigni for injecting his opinions into sportscasts. I used to be somewhat critical of his predecessor, my new best friend Ed Kilgore, for not being opinionated enough.
But there is a line between being professionally opinionated and going down to the level of sports fans arguing in a bar or venting on Twitter.
Javad went over the line. His graphic was the kind of thing fans say over drinks at a bar after a game or some cynic writes on Twitter. Javad needs someone at the station – Toellner, Benigni or News Director Jeff Woodard – to help him understand where the line is on the air.
When I was a young, opinionated sportswriter, I certainly got plenty of advice from veterans on the Buffalo News staff about where the line was and how crossing it with cheap shots could unnecessarily damage your relationship with team officials and players as well as damage your credibility. Admittedly, the world has changed since then and the line has shifted to a scary degree thanks to Twitter and websites like Deadspin.
But Javad still needs that advice. Maybe he could get it from Kilgore. The night that Kilgore entered the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Hall, Javad praised his fellow University of Missouri graduate as the person who had a lot to do with his coming in Buffalo. Javad laughingly referred to Kilgore as “EK,” one of his head-shaking references. I recently reached out to one of Kilgore’s best friends who said he never heard Kilgore being called by his initials.
If Javad is allowed to be talkin’ proud about his “garbage” graphic and take that praise for freedom to do something similar again, then he might eventually go too far and ruin all his credibility.
Now let’s address the Deadpin headline: “One TV Station is Willing to Tell the Truth.”
Was it the truth to say the Bills played like “garbage”?
Sure, the Bills committed four turnovers and the offensive line allowed six sacks.
But this is the National Football League. As Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon pointed out Monday on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” when discussing the sorry performance of another NFL team, the other team has good players, too. The injury-depleted Vikings had a lot to do with the Bills performance.
Bills fans have learned for two straight weeks that the reserves on injured teams are professionals, too. They can play. Bills fans are hoping – and maybe even expecting -- that running backs Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown will illustrate that point now that Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are injured.
On the same “PTI,” the performance of Bills quarterback Kyle Orton in leading the game-winning final drive and winning two of the three games he has started was praised.
In addition, no one credible could say the Bills defense played like garbage in holding the Vikings to 16 points despite the offense’s four turnovers. And no one could claim that rookie receiver Sammy Watkins played like garbage.
Yes, the win was ugly. But Javad’s attention-getting graphic was even more so.
The Bills win had a 36.3 rating on Channel 29, the local Fox affiliate. The only games getting higher ratings this season were losses to San Diego and New England.