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Craig James


One of the least savory individuals in the extremely corrupt world of college football is running for the Senate from the great state of Texas. That is none other than the legendary Craig James, probably the most widely loathed commentator in televised sports. James has used his ESPN platform to promote his conservative causes, what should be a violation of ESPN policy but something he gets away with. He also had Texas Tech coach Mike Leach fired when he claimed that Leach punished his son for having a concussion by forcing him into a shed, a charge that seems way exaggerated if not an outright falsehood. When ESPN writer Bruce Feldman, one of the most respected journalists within college football, wrote a book on Leach, Feldman presented Leach’s side. James then used his influence at ESPN to get Feldman suspended without pay. Public outcry led to Feldman’s reinstatement, but he left soon after. ESPN’s own ombudsman said that James’ influence led to biased coverage against Leach, but James remained the golden boy.

Never mind that James is a horrible commentator, what does he have on ESPN executives that he remains on the air year after year? As far as I can tell, literally no one likes him. Even leading college football writers like Stewart Mandel openly show their contempt for James.

I don’t really know whether James can win the Republican primary. If there’s one thing I know about Texas Republicans, whoever is the craziest and has the money will win. James is a football hero in Texas and has big-time name recognition, even though he lacks political experience. It ought to be an exercise in wearing tinfoil hats if nothing else.

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  • Bill K

    Football Hero? He went to SMU. Maybe if he was a Longhorn or an Aggie it might help, but here in Texas he’s just a vanity candidate.

    • CJR

      He has Death Penalty bonafides. Ask SMU if you don’t believe me.

      • Gern Blanston


  • CJS

    It’s unclear what Craig James is thinking.

    A) His behavior with regards to Mike Leach/Texas Tech alienated fans in the Lubbock area and the Texas Panhandle, which happens to be not just the most heavily Republican area of Texas, but possibly of the United States.

    B) His chief primary opponent (Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst) is a multi-millionaire who can self-finance and has served as a statewide elected official since 1998, including three terms in the powerful lieutenant governor’s post (in TX, the LG is Senate president, appoints Senate committees and chairs, and acts as governor whenever the governor is outside of the state).

    C) For James’s part, his biggest claim to Texas sports fame (apart from the Leach episode, playing the maligned role of the “helicopter parent” in a lot of minds) is as part of the scandal-plagued SMU team that got the NCAA “death penalty” in the 1980s. Not a good group to be associated with.

    • R Johnston

      The Texas LG is actually more powerful than the governor, who needs 2/3 Senate approval for even the most mundane appointments, who has no administrative oversight role, and who can’t even pardon himself for farting without approval by a state board.

  • calling all toasters

    By unbelievably weird coincidence, James’s campaign against Leach happened just in time for Tech avoid paying Leach a large bonus by firing him. I wonder if wealthy Tech trustees will be pouring money into the candidacy of someone who does their bidding while making it look like something else.

    • Dart

      Of course, a money trail will lead from Tech to James’ senate campaign. I seriously doubt if anyone will follow that money and seriously report the illegal activity.
      I feel quite sure that Dewhurst will clobber James, but I once felt quite sure that Hutchinson would trounce Perry. Go figure.
      Seems as if James is one of those extremely arrogant men like Gary Hart or Herman Cain or John Edwards who thinks he is above the scrutiny of the press. I hope the media flogs Daddy James like he did Leach.

  • firehat

    James’s football fame comes from being part of one of the dirtiest programs to ever play. No one remembers him fondly as a player either.

  • Sherri

    Maybe he thinks the boosters will pay him, just like they did when he played college football.

  • Mike

    I’m amazed you managed to write this whole post without mentioning the pernicious rumors that he allegedly killed five hookers while at SMU. #rememberthefive

  • CJR

    I never bothered to untangle the whole James vs Leach thing, because, you know, who cares. But I do know that someone who makes Jesse Palmer seem Socratic by comparison does indeed qualify to run for the Senate from Texas.

  • strategichamlet

    Personally, I hate Joe Buck more, but only because he announces for sports I actually care about.

    • The Shaggy DA

      I love college football way more than baseball and I’ll always hate Joe Buck more.

    • witless chum

      You just don’t like Joe Buck because wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power about the worst human rights violation since the Khmer Rouge: Randy Moss pretending to moon the assembled scum and villainy of northern Wisconsin Packers fans.

    • efgoldman

      I tolerate James, but loath Musberger. James, at least, doesn’t do play by play.

    • Most of you probably don’t follow the sport he covers, but for sheer dickishness, Tommy Smyth has no peer.

  • Fighting Words

    Wait, Cris Collinsworth wasn’t available?

    • Desert Rat

      Actually, I like Collinsworth. He’s controversial, but quite often, he’s right. James is just controversial.

      • witless chum

        I like Collinsworth, too. He’s kind of a dick, but that’s okay in an announcer sometimes. He’s not a afraid of Al Michaels in the least, which is needed to somewhat keep Michaels’ dickishness in check.

        • mpowell

          Yeah, they kind of constrain each other. It’s a pretty effective dynamic.

      • KadeKo

        Yeah, same here.

        For my two bits: Celebrities aren’t PR pros. If a football player/announcer (or other celeb) wants to talk politics and society, I give them two chances to make sense.

        James has used his two chances up, AFAIC. And it’s funny how the subset of “celebs who can speak politics without embarrassing themselves” isn’t randomly distributed across the political spectrum.

    • Ronnie P

      I think Collinsworth is a superb anaylist. I’m amazed at how quickly he breaks things down. And he isn’t afraid to turn his dickishness against the players, something most won’t do.

  • The Shaggy DA

    Maybe he should run for Lieutenant Governor behind Eric Dickerson. That seems a little more realistic.

    • Bill Murray

      and better resembles James’ college career

  • rea

    The facts of the Leach mess seemed fairly clear: Leach didn’t take the medical diagnosis of a concussion seriously, and disciplined a player for not practing with concussion. The points Leach made in his defense wee (1) James the father was an interfering ass, (2) James the son was a bad football player with a bad attitude, and (3) the university adminstration was just looking for an opportunity to get rid of Leach cheap. All of these three things were true, but they don’t excuse what Leach did.

    • The Shaggy DA

      This leads to my take of the situation, as I remember it. James, Jr. was an entitled brat. Leach recklessly disregarded a medical situation to make an example of said entitled brat because he’s bigger than the program. James, Sr. used his friends in Bristol, CT to run Leach out of town without knowing all the facts.
      Bad behavior on all counts, escalating at each step. Much like family feuds countless times before. Just my take, though.

      • rea

        And of course, this business of not taking concussions seriously has been a huge problem in sports in general and football in particular. Leach deserved to face some serious consequences for this.

      • Dart

        Bristol, CT isn’t ringing a bell. What am I missing? Of course, I have had a few concussions.

    • witless chum

      That’s not the way I remember it. As I recall, Leach clapped James the younger in irons and had him hang out in the equipment shed in punishment for showing what the Pirate King felt was a bad attitude on the sidelines while sitting out of practice with a concussion. Which Leach may or may not have doubted was real, but the issue was apparently the way James was acting while standing around.

      There were numerous ways Mike Leach showed himself to be a petty dick who’d do things like make players sit at a desk in the middle of the field in a snowstorm, but he didn’t seem to me to want James to practice. He seemed to want to drive James away from his program.

      Whatever the facts of the situation, I sat through Tech’s bowl game because they were playing my Michigan State Spartans, and ESPN’s announcers were parroting the James line slavishly. It’s just a shitty organization that behaves shittily, between that, the Lebron thing and its obvious desire for 16-team super conferences to exist.

  • Karen

    You’re missing the most important football-related fact of the R’s Senate primary — Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman endorsed the former mayor of Dallas, whose name I can’t remember. (Had any current Cowboy endorsed him, the mayor would have been obliged to drop out of the race and go work in a refugee camp in the Congo to erase the scandal.)

  • Desert Rat

    The thing that will probably stop James is that he clearly has a talent that successful Texas politicians with an R behind the name have generally avoided…collecting a lot of powerful enemies.

    A lot of Texas Tech folks loved Mike Leach. And as somebody else points out…Leach would have a lot more sway if he were a Texas or A&M grad (or even Tech). Add in that he was Exhibit 1A or 1B in the reason that SMU’s program got leveled, and I’m not sure even SMU boosters are really all that enthused to support him these days.

    I’m hoping for the best possible result…having to resign from ESPN to run…only to get his ass handed to him in the GOoPer primary. I have no idea how he’s hung on to his job at ESPN after the Leach controversy anyway.

    • Desert Rat

      er, James would have a lot more sway, not Leach, idiot.

      My kingdom for an edit button.

  • Thlayli

    Not to defend James, but I find it odd that people keep bringing up the SMU death penalty. Considering…

    1. the death penalty happened five years after he left

    2. he wasn’t one of the payers of the dirty money, but one of the (many) recipients

    … it’s hard to see how any of it is particularly his fault.

    • rea

      Well, it’s not his fault for taking the money, just because a lot of people took it?

      • I can’t stand James, but I’ll jump up for that too. Never fault the player for taking the money.

      • Thlayli

        To hear some people tell it, he took the program down all by himself.

        He didn’t do anything worse than a hundred or more other kids. I just don’t see this as a huge millstone around his neck.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Players should damn well take every dime they can get.

  • Previous polling has shown that, despite James’ claims that he has a lot of supporters in West Texas, the exact opposite is true.

    I’d be willing to bet that James won’t even campaign in West Texas. Any crowds he attracts will be extremely hostile. And, let’s face it, possibly armed.

    • Dart

      I never thought about Daddy James stumping in West Texas! What fun!

  • stevo67

    Maybe James is hoping his entry into the race helps shield him from Leach’s lawsuits, under the guise of sovereign immunity for state officals? Not saying it will work, but that could be the delusional thinking of James in this instance.

    And no, Leach did not disregard Adam James concussion diagnosis. He did think the kid was milking the injury, but at no time did he instruct the younger James to be placed in a closet. It has been proven since that James entered the closet by himself with his cell phone camera. James Sr did hire a PR firm to aggravate the situation, and also used his ESPN connections to make sure the narrative and coverage favored Adam James’ version of events.

    Additionally, the Tech chancellor Kent Hance used this incident to deny Leach a million dollar bonus due him for performance. Emails from the Tech administration show that they had issues with Leach based upon the last round of contract negotiations. What isn’t clear is if a conspiracy between Hance and James existed to force the ouster of Leach. But it’s very clear that if the sovereign immunity issues are determined in Leach’s favor, he has a solid case against the Tech administration, and a good shot at a case against James for slander.

    • stevo67

      Meant to add, anything that gets this insufferable douchebag off the air can’t be a bad thing.

    • stevo67

      And for the curious, James has no chance whatsoever of beating Dewhurst in the Republican primary – unless evidence surfaces that our Lt. Gov. actually killed 5 prostitutes.

      • Dart

        I believe that was five HOOKERS that Craig James did not kill.

  • Thomas

    most widely loathed commentator in televised sports

    Uh, no. That would be Joe Buck.

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