Now to be clear and before I go off on a tangent I don’t hate ESPN, they are still by and large the best in the business. I still have my TV preset to their HD channel. But even while I say that I have a hard time believing that inside. I look at them like I do Dwight Howard (yeah he’s the best center in the NBA but is that more about him or the lack of overall talent in that position. Seriously, you couldn’t even think of 5 legitimate centers without a headache and Google search). CBS is making a push but so did the XFL (the fact that you either started laughing or had no clue to what I was talking about only goes to further my point). I start to find myself looking at ESPN more so like someone who has moved in with a boyfriend or girlfriend and over time began to resent and hate their significant other. Before you moved in you had this idealized view of them and how things would be and then they moved in. They left clothes laying around the apartment. They had bad eating habits. Their hygiene wasn’t where you thought it should be. The list continues to grow by the day of the things you hate about the other person. That’s what ESPN is becoming to me.
Now the inherent problem with most 24 hour news channels is filling those 24 hours with actual news. Branching off of that problem lies two problems. One, having a slow news day and relying on ‘fillers’. And two, having a huge news story that everyone wants to talk about at nauseam during their time within that 24 hour news day. Now your ‘fillers’ are the random, arbitrary, and often baseless tripe they try to drum up to fill time. I get it. It’s part of the business. But after a while you can only speculate so much before everyone figures out you really have no clue and no matter how many ‘sources’ you reference you’re basically ‘guess-timating’ like everyone else on Twitter. Take a look at this past NBA offseason. All of the baseless speculation going around for months, and other than LeBron, it remained relatively quiet.
Your job at ESPN got you no closer to the truth than my Axe body spray got me mauled by a bunch of models who collectively just so happened to be at the same beach on the very same day I showed up. Its only August of 2014 and they’re already talking about if Kevin Durant’s going to leave OKC and head back home to the Wizards in the offseason of 2016. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if I turned on ESPN one day and they were inside a maternity ward at some hospital projecting which baby would go high in the 2032 NBA Draft. “Look, this baby has big feet. It’ll probably play the center position when it grows up. The Phoenix Suns could use him 18 years from now.” And then some other pundit would chime in, “Yeah my sources tell me that his mother intends on breastfeeding him. That’ll go a long way in his strength and conditioning. The Phoenix Suns had better keep an eye out on this one.”
Moving on to the second point of that argument, when there actually is huge or breaking news, the massive dogpile of journalist dissecting the issue, down to the smallest atom, over and over and over and over and over again. On the show “ESPN First Take” alone they will rehash an issue twice sometimes 3 times in one episode. Granted their show runs 2 hours long but given the subject matter it can add wrinkles to your face (this probably explains why Skip Bayless’ face looks wrinkled like the balled up t-shirt tucked in the back corner of your closet). Once “ESPN First Take” gets done beating that ‘dead horse’ into dust here comes “Numbers Never Lie”, “Sports Nation”, “Around The Horn”, “PTI”, and every segment of “Sports Center” coming along with their blunt instruments and bats to crush any remaining fragments of that story left behind to the point where there’s no longer a ‘horse’ and your just beating the ground. Now they have “Olbermann” too (oh my god, someone please point me to the nearest skyscraper, cliff, or bridge. If none are around I’ll just charter a plane; saves me the work of climbing). Once again I get it. Everyone wants to give their take on the hot topics but there’s enough stories to go around from all four major sports and college. Which leads me to my next point.
Are there any objective ‘journalists’ on ESPN anymore? Seems like the most objective people are the former players from each sport. And maybe that’s because they’ve played the game and know what it takes to succeed in that area (although at times they too seem too reluctant to criticize current players and usually go the euphemistic route of offending no one). Now a days it seems as though there are pundits, who secretly but overtly, are undercover fanboys of a particular team or player who create arbitrary statistics that they inflate to hyperbolic levels to create a preconceived narrative that they have in their heads about said players or teams. For example: King James. I like LeBron. I think he’s the best overall player in the game today. I think he takes a lot of criticism from people, myself included. But let this dude lose an important game and watch how Sports Center goes into defense mode. The red strobe lights go off. Armed guards run to all the entrances and exits to patrol the perimeter. It looks like an election headquarters for a presidential candidate. I think I even saw James Carville vetting Stuart Scott for a press release on the matter. Its OK if someone has a bad game, they’re allowed to.
It’s even more ok to say they had a bad game ESPN. If you can give someone credit for what they did right then you should also be able to criticize that same person when they did something wrong. Compliments and criticism are the direct, proportional inverse of each other. Don’t be scared. He won’t hate you. At least not forever. Then here comes the mindless stats. “Kobe Bryant is the first player ever to eat a tuna sandwich during a full moon before a game and get 17 points and 6 rebounds. Amazing.” Or, “No player since Robert Parish has locked his keys in his car and showed up to a game 5 minutes late and scored 19 points with 11 rebounds, all while wearing church socks.” THOSE AREN’T REAL STATS!! Those are random numbers paired in sequence to even more random events in some failed attempt to overstate the alleged ‘greatness’ of a particular player. It’s ok to be a fan but how about being a journalist sometimes. Even Superman would throw on a suit and glasses every now and then. Don’t get me started on their NBA halftime show. ESPN does everything right when it comes airing football but basketball is something entirely different. TNT makes them look pathetic in comparison. You almost feel sorry for them. It’s like watching Tito challenge Michael to a dancing competition. You know the outcome going in and whatever embarrassment they should have you empathetically experience it for them.
I could go on but then I would be guilty of beating the proverbial ‘horse’ that I accuse them of. As I referenced earlier, ESPN is that person you move in with and over time become annoyed with their bad habits and traits. The question is now whether or not the good overshadows the bad and you can learn to overlook those annoyances. But that requires being alone or finding someone new, and since we all know there’s really nothing else other than CBS and Bleacher Report along with NFL and NBA TV, we’re pretty much stuck dancing with the same girl if not for anything other than avoiding her uglier younger sisters. And no American male is going to go alone without sports. I would give up my car and walk to work like an Amish farmer before I give up my sports. I’ll give up air before I give up watching sports. So you know what? Even though ESPN doesn’t pay their half of the rent on time and they always eat up the groceries I buy for myself I will continue to share my apartment with them. I will look past their annoying habits. You may not always like four letter words but there comes a time where you just need to use them.