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&#8230;But Isn't The Real Question Which One Is More <i>Now</i>?

(AP)
What do you get when you combine a sportscaster – who mostly gabs over highlight clips, with an occasional quip – with a controversial hard news story?

Among the printable ways I could describe it, how about …. Trouble?

CNN's sports anchor Larry Smith was on the frequently-unwatchable "Nancy Grace" program last week, discussing the Michael Vick story. Grace was wondering why Michael Vick wasn't choosing to face the media to discuss the federal case being brought against him and showed a clip of Kobe Bryant – during his sexual assault case – sitting before a throng of reporters, with his wife at his side. The discussion went like this:

Grace: That is Kobe Bryant after rape allegations were leveled against him, which he beat, I might add. And sitting next to him in that exact presser was his wife.

Out to Larry Smith, CNN sports correspondent and CNN anchor. What`s Vick afraid of? Come on. He`s been in front of the camera a million times. What`s so hard about declaring your innocence?

Smith: Yes, well, that`s -- he`s been in a lot of trouble lately, when you think about all the other incidents, and this is just the worst one of all. Keep in mind, too, that while Kobe Bryant is a situation we can sort of compare this to, this really is much worse. [Emphasis Mine] Not only can you argue that the crimes are much worse in terms of, you know, killing dogs and that kind of thing, but as an NFL starting quarterback, you are the most visible face in that city. I`ve said all along, in fact, you know, if you go through and, you know, very quickly name 10 mayors of major cities in the country...

Grace: Larry Smith, did I just hear you say...

Yeah, Nancy. You just heard what you thought you heard. CNN's Larry Smith was saying that Michael Vick's potential crime was "much worse" than the rape charges made against Kobe Bryant. That's problematic on so many levels I don't know where to start.

But to anyone who's ever listened to sports talk radio, such a comment seems predictable. Every event in the sports world is up for argument, and needs to be put into a competitive context. As soon as Peyton Manning won the Super Bowl, the sports chatterers wanted to debate where he ranked among all-time QBs. The Golden State Warriors upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of this year's NBA playoffs, and the next day's discussion wasn't "how did they do it" as much as it was "where does this upset rank in playoff history?" The entire sports world is built upon pitting two or more teams or people against one another; that's the way people within it view things.

So the next time a major cultural story breaks with a sports angle to it, my $.02 to TV bookers: Don't book a sports guy to discuss it. He or she can discuss stats or league issues, but it may ultimately veer into Bad Comparisons Territory and probably end up ranking somewhere between Larry Smith on "Nancy Grace" and Jim Rome's infamous ""Jim/Chris" interview.