College basketball analyst Billy Packer is out at CBS. Although Michael Wilbon describes the move as a “stunner,” to me the real surprise is that Packer lasted so long at the top (he has worked every Final Four broadcast since 1975.).
The problem isn’t the quality of his work. As Rick Patino says, “Billy has given the most professional accounting of [college] basketball in the history of our game as a commentator.” The wonder, instead, is that someone as politically incorrect and no-frills as Packer made it this deep into the current era of sportscasting.
These days, there are basically two types of analysts, showman and vanilla. Packer was neither. He provided flavor but not through shtick. Rather it was the quality of his analysis coupled with the force of his opinions (and, yes, biases) that made him stand out. In most instances, I could have done without the opinions and biases, but the analysis more than compensated for them.
That’s Wilbon’s view, too, and his column represents a worthwhile appreciation.
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