Maria Taylor enjoys the exact same privilege that catapulted Erin Andrews to television stardom.
Taylor is tall, attractive and quite personable on television. Her career as a collegiate volleyball and basketball player at Georgia adds to her credibility as a sideline reporter and NBA host.
But let’s don’t kid ourselves. The 33-year-old Taylor would not be the host of NBA Countdown, nor would she vote on the league’s most prestigious awards, if she were short, unattractive and grumpy.
Jason Whitlock, at age 33, 43 or 53, could not get any of the jobs ESPN has handed Taylor. Neither could a long list of highly qualified female sports journalists who I will not name.
Beauty, most especially in television, has a privilege that trumps virtually all other privileges. Beauty intoxicates TV executives, bloggers and journalists, and it masks a lack of accomplishment, qualifications and skill. Beauty transformed Katie Nolan from bartender to seven-figure personality, Emmy Award-winner and the darling of aroused bloggers and TV critics willing to ignore her pedestrian humor and inability to execute live television.
I bring all this up because the most talented, young female sports-TV host, Maria Taylor, is in the process of undermining her meteoric rise by wallowing in victimhood. Taylor forgot to name Lakers center Anthony Davis to her first, second or third-team all-NBA ballot. Fox Sports radio host Doug Gottlieb criticized Taylor’s gaffe, asking an obvious question:
“Why does Maria Taylor have a vote?” Gottlieb tweeted. “Real question. She is a studio host/sideline reporter in her first year covering the NBA. She works a ton, not just on the league. No reason for her to have a vote.”
Gottlieb’s question is legitimate, and it’s not mean-spirited. Taylor responded to Gottlieb’s tweet defiantly.
“Because I PLAYED basketball… I COVER the league. And I DESERVE everything I’ve worked hard for.”
As it relates to NBA voting privileges, Taylor hasn’t worked hard for that. The super-woke NBA gifted Taylor the privilege because ESPN fast-tracked Taylor into the job of NBA Countdown host. The NBA would rather hand a high-profile female journalist an opportunity rather than have her earn it with several years of credible work.
It’s a combination of female privilege and beauty privilege in the age of the matriarchy.
Let me clarify my long-held position on Maria Taylor. She’s the most talented person to hold ESPN’s coveted College Gameday sideline job. She’s an on-air natural. Unlike Andrews, who is a terrific sideline reporter, Taylor is also a skilled host.
There’s nothing on television Taylor cannot do. She’s a unicorn.
The only thing that can stop Maria Taylor from enjoying a long, successful TV career is if she goes the path of Michelle Beadle and starts taking herself way too seriously.
For the most part, people watch people on TV who they believe share their values and sensibilities. TV executives call it likeability. When a consumer turns on a television, they’re inviting the hosts into their homes. People do not consistently invite angry people into their homes.
Sports fans don’t invite non-sports fans into their homes when they want to enjoy sports. Beadle made it obvious she doesn’t like sports or sports fans, particularly football fans. She thinks they’re stupid and racist. It’s the same mistake Jemele Hill made.
I never question whether Taylor likes sports. I am starting to question whether she likes sports fans. This is the danger of sports hosts wearing their Twitter-approved political and racial point of view on television and across social media. You decrease and limit your audience. You serve a niche. You pander to the Twitter mob that foolishly tries to end racism with racism.
A week ago, an unknown Chicago shock jock, Dan McNeil, tweeted criticism of an outfit Taylor wore as a Monday Night Football sideline reporter. On her subsequent NBA Countdown show, Taylor played the victim and Jalen Rose gave her flowers as a show of support.
It was all a narcissism-driven mistake. Far less than 1 percent of her Countdown audience would even recognize McNeil’s name and even fewer still knew of his tweet criticizing Taylor.
But Taylor is starting to take herself quite seriously. She wrongly believes any criticism of her is an example of systemic misogyny and racism. The blue-check media fuel her delusion. Gottlieb’s Fox Sports colleague Rachel Bonnetta attacked him over his Taylor tweet.
“Doug, do you ever write a tweet and think… hmmm maybe not…? This should have been one of those times because it comes across as extremely sexist and quite ignorant.”
Gottlieb’s tweet is actually the opposite of sexism. He’s holding Taylor to the same standard he would any man. If a man had made the same mistake as Taylor, he would be accused of being lazy and/or racist. In 2013, Gary Washburn had to explain why he voted Carmelo Anthony MVP over LeBron James. In 2016, there was a nationwide manhunt for the three baseball writers who failed to include Ken Griffey Jr., on their hall of fame ballot.
Criticism is the background music of success. Taylor is having a lot of success. Scrutiny and criticism of her performance are natural. It’s a sign of respect.
Gottlieb’s mild criticism was also a warning to Taylor. At this point in her career, given all the opportunities ESPN has granted her, she should no longer accept everything that’s handed to her. There are people far more qualified than her to vote on NBA awards. She hasn’t covered the league long enough to be an expert. She’s apparently too busy to cross-check her all-NBA ballot against statistics readily available on ESPN.com.
But when you take yourself too seriously, you’re often not self-aware enough to realize what you do and don’t deserve. You start thinking the world owes you things you have not earned. You rationalize justifiable criticism for a mistake you made and see it as a flaw in your critics.
You nail yourself to a cross on TV and Twitter.
Beadle and Hill died on those crosses. It would be a shame if it happened to The Unicorn.
If you want Jason Whitlock for your TV or radio show or podcast, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.