Just what the hell happened in Bristol, CT? ESPN, the network that took sports journalism nationwide, has become a caricature of their former selves. All of us at Thunder Matt’s grew up in an era where ESPN was the authority for sports news and highlights. If we had been forced to rely on the local news for our sports, we may have never known a baseball team named the Texas Rangers ever existed or that some people actually care who won the hockey game.
Well, those days are gone. ESPN now represents everything that is wrong with the “new media” era: style over substance and shameless self promotion to the Nth degree. They’re so bad, the name ESPN doesn’t fit anymore. If you didn’t know, ESPN stands for Entertainment and Sports Network. Since its hardly entertaining anymore and the sports content is thinning out, they should change their name to NSPD: Network of Self-Promotion and Douchebaggery (yeah, I just made a word up, but its just too perfect). Some items to consider:
1. The Anchors - Ever since Craig Kilborn left ESPN for the glory of mopping up after David Letterman, every ESPN anchor is on an interminable audition for their next job. The worst of these is of course Stuart Scott. With lazy eye in tow, Scott oozes his way onto every ESPN channel and nearly every ESPN show (I’ve yet to see him on Baseball Tonight…fingers crossed) wearing suits that cost more than the Geo he drives to work and spouting completely incomprehensible gibberish under the guise of sports reporting. Scott is just the worst example, every anchor on the network has a gimmicky catch phrase that straddles the line between utter nonsense and tired cliché. Booya…
2. The “Experts” - The quality of “experts” on the network has declined in recent years. With Peter Gammons in the hospital, I’m not even sure there’s anyone on the channel that should be given that title. The next closest thing, Harold Reynolds, was summarily fired this week after being accused of sexual harassment (of a woman or John Kruk, we don’t know). What’s left? Steve Phillips, John Clayton, Orestes Destrade, Sean Salisbury, and that Irish soccer guy no one can understand.
3. Phony Confrontation - Sports highlights and interviews weren’t enough. Someone had the bright idea of ripping off CNN’s Crossfire style of having four people on a panel arguing over one another. Beyond that, they are now in the business of manufacturing confrontation and getting the audience involved. Take this for example…Quite Frankly, an irritating “interview” program which is really just a vehicle for Stephen A. Smith to show the world what a miserable human being he is, recently extended an invite to Cubs manager Dusty Baker. Being clueless in the dugout, but by all accounts a decent guy, Baker accepted. ESPN then proceeded to recruit audience members to come boo Dusty. That’s right, they invite a guy on for an interview and then plan an audience ambush. Classy all around.
4. ESPN: The Brand - Remember the running joke of self-promotion in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs - Spaceballs the lunch box, Spaceballs the flame-thrower, Spaceballs the toilet paper and so on? Well, ESPN took this as inspiration, not a delicious send-up of George Lucas & Star Wars. ESPN the Magazine, ESPN Radio, ESPN video games, the “Espys” and so on… I don’t know what else to say here. ESPN the sanitary napkin can’t be far off.
Time for these folks to get back to basics. Show sports highlights and have actual experts tell us things we don’t know. Use Bob Ley’s haircut as inspiration if need be. Bob has had the same bowl cut since day one at ESPN. Back to your roots people, back to your roots.
Oh, and breaking the bank to get Olbermann back wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
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