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Fred Hickman Highlights a Rather Embarrassing Week for ESPN

Remember Fred Hickman? The most devoted YES Network watchers might recall the competent yet unremarkable original studio host for Yankees (and Nets) pregame and postgame. It’s unlikely that anyone else noticed when he left for ESPN in 2004.

But, as detailed by a ridiculously entertaining report in Deadspin this week, Hickman no longer works at ESPN, partly thanks to a series of strange incidents, but mostly because he missed more than 200 days of work in three years. Apparently, Hickman is a space cadet — liked by all, but still — who can’t get to work on time, calls in sick regularly, and never prepares for any of his segments. Two highlights from the story:

• “He would make up numerous illnesses both for himself and those close to him, including ex-wives, great aunts, etc. similar to a way that a college freshman would embellish family emergencies to get out of class. On at least one occasion when Hickman was supposedly out for a dire emergency, one of his colleagues spotted him getting a haircut.”

• “SportsCenter anchor John Anderson still begins his top 10 plays segment by saying “Number 10…Fred.” This is an inside joke done to pay homage to Hickman’s tenure. The origins of it come from when one PA wrote out the top 10 play list by giving name indications on each play. Number 10, in this case, was given to Hickman and marked “Fred” on the prompter. Hickman, in turn, read “Number 10…Fred ” on air.”

Deadspin reports that ESPN had heard about Hickman’s flakiness from CNN folks but chose to hire him anyway. Maybe he’ll come back to YES now. He sounds like our kind of anchor.

But the Hickman revelation was just one of a few embarrassments for ESPN this week. Perhaps even more entertaining was the brilliant Slate piece by Josh Levin that chronicled columnist Rick Reilly’s apparent obsession with references to teeth and dentistry — mostly one-liners like saying he’d “sooner floss crocodiles” than go skydiving. There’s even a dental-reference tag cloud!

And Sunday, on The Sports Reporters, John Saunders, Mike Lupica, and Bob Ryan were complaining — in unision at one point, apparently — about the way the BCS rankings are calculated. They brought up the Harris Poll (one of the human polls used to determine the standings), and singled out one voter in particular: Jerry Palm, who operates the Website Only one problem: Jerry Palm isn’t a voter. And thus, The Sports Reporters continues the long, slow journey to becoming Around the Horn: Sunday Edition.

Fred Hickman Highlights a Rather Embarrassing Week for ESPN