What Should ESPN Be?

Like lots of other people in the blogosphere, I have spent my fair share of time criticizing various facets of ESPN’s operation. From the lazy and ill-informed nature of a considerable portion of ESPN radio, to the blather on Around the Horn, to the sometimes sycophantic nature of Mike and Mike, not to mention the network’s general blurring of the line between shameless self-promotion on the one hand and self-importance as a serious news organization on the other, there’s plenty to criticize (and, did I mention the painfully insipid “Who’s Now”tournament that’s currently running?). But, these concerns are, arguably, not the most important ones. ESPN, in fact, is failing on a more profound level.

An article in Newsweek this past weekend, wonders whether ESPN has become the “world wide cheerleader”:

ESPN’s lucrative partnerships with the NFL, the NBA, MLB and NASCAR, among others, have put its news operation, and “SportsCenter” in particular, in a unique bind. “Imagine The New York Times owning half of the Broadway theaters whose plays it reviews. Or imagine CNN paying billions of dollars for exclusive … rights to cover the War in Iraq,” wrote ESPN’s own ombudsman, Le Anne Schreiber, in a May 10 Web column titled “At ESPN, Conflict of Interest Is Business as Usual.” It has led to the occasional gaffe, like ESPN’s decision to cancel its well-regarded drama “Playmakers” after the NFL complained about the show. And many influential sports bloggers, such as The Big Lead and Deadspin, have accused the network of ignoring sports, especially pro hockey, that ESPN doesn’t have deals with.

Newsweek also argues that ESPN is plagued by athlete hero-worship:

…in recent years, networkwide, that balance has begun to tip unmistakably toward the kind of athlete-centric idol worship that seems more like the province of Us Weekly than ESPN.

Newsweek raises a legitimate concern about conflict-of-interest. But, athlete hero-worship is far from the network’s biggest problem. In fact, reflecting a broader sports media culture, ESPN and its various talking heads, writers and shows, spend plenty of time harping on the foibles, great and small, of high profile athletes. It’s not merely true that ESPN serves, first and foremost, its own financial interests (that’s so, of course, but not particularly surprising). It’s that, in the course of doing so, it has taken the lead in promoting a sports conversation that is, by and large, watered down, uninsightful and an unfortunate reflection of larger trends in journalism that influence what constitutes news.

To take one example, transgressive individual behavior, even of a relatively trivial sort, receives inordinate attention. So, as I have written previously, Stephon Marbury finds himself the subject of a lengthy conversation about “bad character” because he blows off a reporter’s question, notwithstanding his extraordinary charitable works (Marbury’s been repeatedly criticized for his attitude over the years). Meanwhile, the same guys who piled on Marbury (in the above case, Mike and Mike), happily read ad copy for Shell Oil on the radio, notwithstanding that company’s longtime, and widely documented, complicity with the Nigerian military dictatorship, responsible for, among other things, executing the non-violent opposition writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, in 1995. And, why were Saro-Wiwa and eight others executed? For the crime of protesting Shell Oil’s despoiling of land in his home region.

ESPN is a commercial enterprise, and this subjects it to all of the pressures and compromises of other commercial news organizations. And, it’s not as if mainstream news organizations have acted in exemplary manner in fulfilling their public and constitutionally protected responsibilities (CNN doesn’t have a contract to cover exclusively the war in Iraq, but it sure acted as if it did in the run-up to the war, mouthing uncritically administration claims that proved disastrously wrong, as well as in its starry-eyed coverage of the 1991 Gulf war). Furthermore, ESPN has some great assets in its universe: Bill Simmons has his limits, but he’s a very talented and entertaining writer. PTI is a fun show. Keith Law, Rob Neyer and John Hollinger are first rate analysts at the website. Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap are intelligent journalists and Outside the Lines is of consistently high quality. So, it’s both true that the network has some very good programming and that some of its key weaknesses reflect those that afflict American journalism more generally. This itself is not surprising – ESPN’s parent company, Disney, maintains a news operation at ABC that is also severely compromised by cross-pressures from advertising and its desire not to step too far out of line in raising hard truths about power in America.

But, having said all that, ESPN has a unique place in contemporary sports culture. The scope of its coverage, its near monopoly control of the national sports news cycle and its resources (it’s essentially ABC, NBC and CBS rolled into one) confer on ESPN unique responsibilities, if it is to be taken at all seriously, to act as a watch dog, at least some of the time. Instead, ESPN has made a mockery of the notion that journalism should be central to the enterprise of covering sports. There is little practice of serious investigative reporting, or relatedly, holding important institutional figures in sports accountable for their actions, both as they relate to the field of play and to the larger consequences of those actions. Again, ESPN’s following a larger pattern: as the major networks have learned, talk is cheap, literally. Filling up the airwaves with endlessly recurring tripe about this or that petty scandal is an easy and cost-effective way to fill programming time. Maintaining staff that can do the hard work of investigation and reporting requires a more significant commitment of resources with an uncertain payoff, at least in ratings terms. Such financial incentives and disincentives also make it easier for the network to steer clear of potential business conflicts. If ESPN is so invested in college football, how can it possibly soberly ask whether big-time collegiate athletics do more harm than good for universities, or for the student-athletes that the NCAA purports to serve? In 2003, Vanderbilt, the SEC’s only private school, abolished its athletic department because of what its then-chancellor Gordon Gee condemned as the culture of corruption in college sports. The result: the always woeful Commodores’ varsity teams entered an era of unprecedented success on the field, while saving money and improving student-athlete’s college experiences off the field. Why has ESPN given relatively little attention to this story? And, why has it followed the lead of other major news organizations in America in taking a police-blotter approach to journalism? As is well established, crime dropped dramatically in the United States during the 1990s. But, you wouldn’t know this from looking at public opinion polls, and neither, apparently, does the public. This is so because news coverage of law-breaking and shows like Cops provided a steady-drumbeat of crime stories, distorting public perception of the true nature of the situation, as Barry Glassner documents in his book, The Culture of Fear. Big stories were getting short shrift in the 1990s, like the gathering crisis in the US health care system. But, fuck if Americans everywhere didn’t know when someone in their local news area got murdered.

I understand that Michael Vick is a big story. But, does every DWI or night club incident really warrant a place on sports center? Couldn’t ESPN devote some portion of its resources to investigating whether, for example, college football isn’t detracting, at many schools, from the overall educational mission of the university. Or, devoting real time and energy to scrutinizing pro sports teams claims  in the on-going publicly-financed stadium boondoggle so widespread in the US these days?

So, where does this combination of a commercially compromised enterprise and a culture stuck on individual-level transgressions but largely ignorant of institutional ones, leave us? At ESPN, the overall thrust of its various content is an insipid and trivial view of character, in which to be a “good guy” is to cooperate with the journalistic enterprise, such as it is, intertwined with an uncritical acceptance of the biases and pre-dilections of ESPN’s core audience. Like any business, ESPN understands its audience and, on the whole, is going to serve it. One can wring one’s hands about that, but that won’t change. But, is it necessary for ESPN to consign to the Outside the Lines ghetto almost all non-trivial concerns about the larger social context in which we consume sports, or the institutional realities governing how the games are played, and who benefits from them?

35 Responses to “What Should ESPN Be?”

  1. Miranda Says:

    This is a great piece….bravo. The general trend in journalism…….is depressing. Somehow we no longer want our minds to be challenged, we just want our souls to be shocked. When the machines finally do take over…its gonna be easy.

  2. I agree with your assessment of this all. But I wonder, when did ESPN decide to devote almost all of its programming to ‘Journalism’ (of which you have remarked it is, for the most part, not real Journalism) and removed a large portion of the actual sports programming? I used to enjoy getting news/highlights from Sportscenter as a kid and then watching obscure sports when I stayed home from school for whatever reason. Now we get less ‘news’, more opinions, and less sports.

    Also, this ‘police blotter journalism’ was sort of interesting for a while, but it is just getting ridiculous.

  3. Well, I think it’s obvious that ESPN should cover more Arena Football. If Lee Corso likes it, then I’m all over it.
    /snark

    I think there are too many conflicts of interest for ESPN to be a serious news outlet. That being said, they are above the “E!” network in terms of critical thinking: “Tell me Paris, when your parents engineered your first release from jail after 72 hours, were you worried that your houseplants were being watered?”

    But there are a lot of similarities between E! and ESPN. Their success depends upon the popularity of their subject matter. If people stop caring about sports, they don’t watch ESPN. So ESPN has a vested interest in drumming up support for the events they cover. As a result, ESPN, as an organization, has both manifest and latent functions.

    But, what makes it popular (the place to turn to after a big sports event) also constrains their ability to critically analyze those events.

    So, all they can do is hero-worship or hero-vilification. By focusing on the individual, ESPN can attract attention with sensational journalism without harming the larger sports organizations they cover.

    That way, they can say “Bonds is a monster, but major league baseball is great! Watch the playoffs here on ESPN/ABC!” And viewers will tune in for both.

  4. Firstly, jweiler, this is an excellent, excellent article that is right on point. I also appreciated the linked Marbury article. And I agree with your feeling that ESPN is an extension of a general news-media-gone-wild that exists across the board.

    You write: “Like any business, ESPN understands its audience and, on the whole, is going to serve it. One can wring one’s hands about that, but that won’t change.”

    Ok, I have definitely been one of those wringing my hands about it as you may or may not have seen my recent less-diplomatic-than-you offering: ESPN’s RAP SHEET: “Pacman as Black Man” http://killbigotry.blogspot.com/2007/07/espns-rap-sheet-pacman-as-black-man.html

    But let me, perhaps extremely naively, address the “that won’t change” part. What about a concerted, coordinated, and sustained “shame effort” led by independent bloggers? Perhaps the fact that ESPN is owned by “Disney” might also be a source of leverage. Now I could be completely talking out of my ass because I am a newbie to this whole blogging game while you guys have apparently been doing this for years (which I respect immensely BTW). But isn’t complete and well-documented campaign of shame at least one viable strategy amongst many? While I suspect that it might be, i also suspect that you might tell me: “listen kid, let me explain some things to you about how billion-dollar corporations operate…”

    If that is the case, I’m willing to take that hit. But there have been many cases in mainstream news where bloggers have exerted influence on political affairs. Now while the mainstream political media hasn’t really changed all that much, ESPN offers the luxury of a single target that has the lion’s share of sports coverage. While I have less historical knowledge about how the sports blogging community has effected change, I still wanted to throw the shame strategy out there for feedback?

  5. Great commentary J. I just wanted to add something about the Deadspin and its mention in the Newsweek piece that is missed in its “critiques” of ESPN. There are equal parts pandering and critique of ESPN happening at that website.

    What happens is a half-hearted “critique” becomes part of public lore to the point it is used on ESPN or at ESPN.com, “you’re with me leather” being a prime example. That phrase uttered by Chris Berman, which could have been a death knell ringing ended as a snappy catchphrase on Sportscenter because Deadspin’s approach was, “Oh we caught Berman (but, Shhhhh! he’s still got it with the ladies!).” Many people miss the fact that Deadspin is owned by Gawker Media, a burgeoning online entertainment juggernaut in its own right.

  6. This is off topic, but the SI story you linked to on Vanderbilt eliminating its athletic department got me thinking: what do you think, or anyone else that cares to respond, of Ohio State doing the same? I did read an article where Gee said he doesn’t expect to be as strict with the OSU athletic programs, with concern to disciplinary issues, as he was at Vanderbilt. Still, it seems like a likely course of action. What do you all think?

  7. J,

    I consider this the biggest and most meaningful indictment all week.

  8. J,

    Excellent post. The problems at ESPN are no different than those of an out-of-control
    celebrity. When those close to you tell you what you want to hear instead of what you
    NEED to hear, you begin to believe your own hype. As a result, you become immune to
    criticism which leads to feelings of invincibility. Which leads us to “Who’s Now”.
    SportsCenter used to be must-see viewing, and not just because of Dan Patrick and Keith
    Olbermann. People forget how good the teams of Craig Kilborn and Bret Haber (The Feelgood Edition),
    Charley Steiner and anybody, and early Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen (who kept each other
    in check)were. Sad to say, they may be too far gone to ever be respectable again.

    dwil,

    As for Deadspin, see what happens when the outlaw becomes the law…

  9. Really great article. I find it hard to listen to ESPN Radio anymore, with the exception of Peter Gammons. I wasn’t even aware of the ‘Who’s Now’ but am apalled after reading about it.
    I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile my love of baseball and hoops to the horrendous media coverage…Especially the abusurd categroization of ‘good guys’ in sports and ‘bad guys’.

    and, oh yeah by the way, Mike&Mike are unlistenable…

    Mr. OK Jazz

  10. Pistons Fan Says:

    I really wish sportscenter would show longer highlights. The hockey coverage really ticks me off. They will show hockey highlights once or twice a week total and usually just 2 goals from an entire night of action. They parade Barry Melrose out, and let him talk hockey for 30 seconds. There’s no way he can provide any meaningful analysis when he is supposed to breakdown the entire league in half of a minute. It really does look like ESPN is trying to bury the NHL.

  11. DWil and Des, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for saying the truth about Deadspin. I can’t believe people are so blind to think that Deadspin.com has zero agenda in criticizing ESPN. It’s like your corner store joining a “Ban Walmart” group. Who do you think looks good if Walmart/ESPN looks bad? Who makes money?! This is small/new business 101; you beat the big competitor by attacking it, it can’t return fire because you’re too small/nimble/obscure, and then once you are in charge you subtly replace it with your own (similar) stuff.

    And think about this as well. Why do you think Deadspin linked so little to TSF and other thought-inducing blogs? We are its small business, its competition. It has no incentive to link to us, because we have a different approach to coverage. If Deadspin ever becomes really big, we are the danger to it. Now I hate to make Mr. Leitch look like the bad guy here; he just works there, and I really do think he’s a good guy. But I’m just pointing out, if you do any sort of rudimentary business analysis of this, it makes a little too much sense.

    One last point. When did blogs like SML and NOIS start getting links? Why, when they start talking about Deadspin or treating it as powerful! Classic Gawker.com trick. The rules are clear to me. Anyway, I’ve used up my monthly quota of exclamation points and vitriol, so I depart.

  12. I know this doesn’t really add much to your comments, but there was an interesting post at 100% Injury Rate (http://100percentinjuryrate.blogspot.com/2007/07/time-to-stick-it-to-espn.html) a while back about some of the most annoying things on ESPN. I’m glad I can remember ’92, ’93 on ESPN when (well, all I wanted back then were highlights as well) but it seems like there is nothing too insignificant that ESPN can’t sell it and looking back…well, I dunno, it definitely seemed there was more content back then. I try and just watch ESPNews..I get all the facts I need there…..I get more news from blogs than I do @ ESPN.com; or I check out Yahoo Sports.

  13. CJ Scudworth Says:

    Not that this isn’t a worthwhile article, but at its core, it’s an old story: We live in an era of media consolidation (and we can thank Al Gore for shepherding the insidious Telecommunications Act of 1996, btw), and this is part of the price we the public pays for that reality. ESPN became the Evil Sports Network when Disney bought it, and if you think that will ever change, keep in mind that News Corp. is the only organization that could ever dethrone the WWL.

    The best we can hope for is the occasional small victory, like Ron Jaworski replacing the insufferable Joe Thiesmann on MNF, and keep seeking out online outlets like this one (didn’t know about the Vandy situation, that’s cool, and props to Marbury for his good deeds, but his ego still destroyed the T-Wolves franchise). Because when we turn on the tube on Monday nights this fall, we’re still going to be subjected to those ghastly 30-minute in-game interviews with hack ABC sitcom stars, and then after the game, it’s more police-blotter sports news interspersed with the same highlights presented in narrative, list and then dance-mix form.

    And PTI is a fun show? Kornheiser and Wilbon are blowhards…

  14. MC-
    Stop Mike Lupica got absolutely slammed for the same thing you wrote… And as far as The Worldwide goes, I actually understand some of their television choices except I thought ridding themselves of those athlete=entertainer shows like “Who’s Now” were deaded – I guess not (but Wilbon loves being on Who’s Now – I told peeps he’s not what people think he is, but no one believed me). See, other than highlights and OTL, pretty much everything else is about titillation – even televised “news.”

    BUT. If they continue to cheapen the written word (The Mag and ESPN.com) that’s when there are problems. It is reprehensible to have print that reads like those who speak on television. People read to ABSORB information, process it, and THINK about it, not to do the TV glaze.

    I hope their print competition is keenly aware of this – like SI – and hope continue with their consistently deeper and all-around better, writing (and what’s messed up is that there are good writers at The Worldwide, but……..)

  15. J, good piece. I submit this paraphrasing of a quote I’ve heard repeatedly, but can never place who said it first: you cannot teach a man to understand something when his livelihood is dependent upon him not doing so. ESPN is beyond help; it cannot be what you ask of it. You can only take what you need from it; the rest has to be done on one’s own.

    D-Wil – if SI wants to steal the Four Letter’s audience with better print reporting and quality online, it would serve them well to not attempt to ape ESPN’s web design. Absolutely horrific, and I don’t visit it often because it is uselessly cluttered. SI is clearly unaware that part of making it easier to read the written word online is to reduce the crap that gets in the way of that reading.

  16. jweiler Says:

    Lots of good comments to respond to here. Charles, you raise a worthwhile point: I do have some optimism about the impact of political blogs on politics, though the blogosphere still tends to over-rate its own importance in that regard. And, part of me thinks that the internet has just become an especially effective way for politicians to raise money (in small donations, of course), without making them more accountable to the political concerns of the high traffic blogs. In terms of sports, I am less optimistic, partly for the reasons that Dwil, Des and McBias laid out – namely, that the biggest sports blog by far, Deadspin, is not interested in being political in any overt way.

    S2N – the quote appears at the end of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Turth and is from Upton Sinclair. I get the print edition of SI, and its amazing how that facilitates, for me, reading it and absorbing it compared to accessing it online. Maybe that’s because I am a relatively old foagie.

  17. I’m pretty sure that ESPN is just one year away from doing “The Espys: Live on the Red Carpet!” with Nicole Ritchie and John Tesh hosting.

  18. Good work J.

    Dwil and I talk about this all the time. We wonder about the true objective of large outlets.

    Seems like the dollar rules over substantive and insightful information.

    I personally would rather read about Herb Pope than the ridiculous weekday afternoon, network television tone reporting of athlete failings.

    Pope’s story is inspiring. Are we really that jacked up of a society that we would rather read about who the hell is carrying Tom Brady’s (Go Blue!) child.

    Just sets a bad precedent that unfortunately will tatter the learning process of future generations.

  19. CJ,

    ESPN’s commercialization may very well be an old story, but it is one that needs to be retold as much as possible and at every turn. You mention the insidious Telecommunications Act of 1996 (worse legislation than even The Patriot Act) but, even today so few people even KNOW about the catastrophic effects of The Act (TV OR Music). For that reason the story must be rereported at every single turn.

    And while I agree with most of what you said, I think you were a bit hard on PTI. I always thought that Kornheiser and Wilbon did a decent job of balancing the whole entertaining while informing act. They are brighter than many of their ESPN colleagues (ok, Bayless and Mariotti don’t create the highest of bars) and they don’t seem to take themselves too seriously even if Wilbon has gotten a bit more curmudgeonly the last couple of years. Also, le Batard is a great substitute teacher who also writes ESPN The Mags best columns. –Charles

  20. This is a great point, and I think it is intrinsically tied to the almighty dollar. As our news sources have become sprawling companies with markets everywhere, the value of investigative reporting is really low. There just isn’t a real incentive for it. For ESPN in particular, investigating Major League Baseball on its steroids problem , or the NCAA for its, well everything, doesn’t serve them. Like you said, it cheapens the game as a whole, which doesn’t help them…its much easier to villify an athlete than a company. Also, you have to understand, these corporations look out for each other. ESPN is not what you would call a media watchdog for the sports leagues–it refuses to do that because it has too many dollars involved. For instance: Once Barry Bonds goes away, baseball wants the steroids issue to go away, and it will. The media will “turn a blind eye” again and pretend the eras over even though we all know PEDs will be part of the game forever. Another case of the dollar: Fox News. Fox News, just like all the other news organization, is not concerned about reporting news, its concerned about ratings. Fox saw that there was a dearth of conservative slanted coverage, and once it filled that void, it became a rallying for conservatives, and that’s why they get the highest ratings. Since the rest of the media’s opinions were more slanted to the left, if there was a station that always gave the conservative opinion, people would watch. And that’s whats important.

  21. J, this is an excellent, excellent post. This is very thought provoking, and the comments have been just as good.

    It’s a shame that, aside from watching sports events (actual games), I avoid ESPN as much as possible. As many of you stated, their programming has become little more than “entertainment”, popcorn fluff….

  22. J – thanks for naming the reference, I know I have a copy of “The Jungle” lying around; maybe it’s time to get to reading it. I’m an SI print subscriber as well (I’m sentimentally attached to actually holding newspapers and magazines in my hands), and the printed page will always be better for absorption in that sense. However, SI could help itself slightly by making the web design tolerable.

  23. Great commentary J and excellent stuff in the comments as always.

    In this week’s S.I., there’s even a little satirical article about the “Now” contest ESPN in running.

    ESPN COULD be so much more than it is. The same degenerative disease that afflicted MTV is now at work on ESPN. Remember when MTV used to be about music videos? Me neither. ESPN has placed the sports personality cult above its hard news reporting in many cases to its detriment. The only shows that have any value now are “Outside the Lines” and “Edge NFL Match Up”. “Sportscenter” is just a joke and many of the so-called analyst merely like the sound of their own voices. Given the reach of ESPN, it should be doing much better.

  24. [...] The degradation of ESPN… [...]

  25. CJ Scudworth Says:

    Ya, I know PTI has its fans; it just isn’t for me. Kornheiser especially I find grating.

    I guess I have different tastes. For me, MTV’s heyday wasn’t its video era, but its all-too-brief animation era. Beavis and Butt-head, in addition to being hilarious, was a deceptively clever program. Daria, too. There were some others, most notably Clone High, which in its 13-episode run managed to cheese off about a half a billion Hindus. (If you ever watched Scrubs, you would love Clone High, and it would be worth your while to visit Google Video, which still has a few of the episodes.)

    Anyway, MODI you’re of course right when you say the story of media consolidation can’t be retold enough. I guess my point was that, given what’s taken place, ESPN ain’t going back to 1985 for us. That and I was kind of suprised Jweiler gave us this otherwise fine post without mentioning Disney…

  26. Just for the record – I did mention Disney, and its ownership of ESPN as well as ABC. But, I agree, CJ – we’re not going back to 1985.

  27. JWeiler:
    Excellent , insightful and thought-provoking commentary.

    Ken #3
    “So, all they can do is hero-worship or hero-vilification. By focusing on the individual, ESPN can attract attention with sensational journalism without harming the larger sports organizations they cover.

    That way, they can say “Bonds is a monster, but major league baseball is great! Watch the playoffs here on ESPN/ABC!” And viewers will tune in for both.”

    Outstanding. Precisely the point. simply fucking pathetic what the network has become.

    Mr OK Jazz #9

    Take away the baseball from your post and this could have been written by me. BTW, is the Jazz in your moniker referencing Jazz music. I’m, a huge Jazz fan.

    Dwil #14
    Wilbon had so much promise but now he seems to be more enamored with hanging with the sports stars than being the voice he could be. I don’t really think he’s clueless, simply afraid to lose his gig. And his ridiculous hatred of Kobe and his game in order to maintain his Jordan worship is simply stupid.

    Speaking of stupid. “The Wire” was passed over again by the Emmy’s. What a joke.

  28. CJ, just curious, why do you find Kornheiser especially “grating”. The thing that i like about him (and Wilbon when he is not talking about how he is sick of this or that “junk”) is that even when they are in full-fledged blowhard mode, there is always a “twinkle in the eye” to let the viewer know that it is equal parts information, shtick, and entertainment. Kornheiser, in particular, doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously which, in turn, tells the viewer not to take him too seriously. But at the same time you can tell that they are both smart guys. To me, that is the key and what makes PTI work as edutainment where some of the clowns on Around the Horn do a disservice.

    Also, I will concede with all that we are not going back to ’85, but how about ’95? I’ll gladly even take 2000. Or whatever was the last documented date before T.O. riding his exercise bike in spring training camp would not have qualified for a story…

  29. CJ Scudworth Says:

    Phil Mushnick’s column in the Post dovetails nicely with this topic:

    http://www.nypost.com/seven/07202007/sports/had_our_phil_of_morgan_sports_phil_mushnick.htm

    MODI, I don’t really have a good answer for you on Kornheiser. I just don’t find him entertaining. Goodnight, Canada? That’s supposed to be funny?…

  30. CJ Scudworth Says:

    Blog etiquette compels me to add that I found that Mushnick article linked on Fire Joe Morgan, a site that also dovetails nicely with this topic…

  31. HarveyDent Says:

    Insightful article but just as sports is a so-called microcosm of society then ESPN can be called the petri dish for the larger mainstream media. Too busy locked up with the latest missing blonde/PacMan and the law run-in than showing the marionette strings. Just like I’m weaning myself off sports-talk radio except for the Stews on the Zone and Tony Paige on the Fan, I’m getting to the point where I was sports only for the events and get the ‘real’ news off the internet without the catchphrases and manufactured hype.

    Still enjoy OTL, PTI, NFL Live, and the Sports Reporters (for some reason) but the rest of the WWL can fly a kite. Damn a Stuart Scott and Chris Berman.

  32. Great article.. jweiler

    Sadly I view the network I used to love being caught in inhearent conundrum

    If ESPN is pandering to its audience, then how it manifests itself is due to the nature of this nation. I understand the media wields much influence on how the public “thinks”, but somehow the general ideas of the masses must change before entities like ESPN cease to to buttress them.

  33. [...] been a crazy few days in the world of sports. Last week, in a post about ESPN, I complained about the police-blotter approach so common these days in sports journalism. That was [...]

  34. [...] told the AP:  “I’m not satisfied with any of it.”  She shouldn’t be.  ESPN has spent countless hours reporting on the Michael Vick incident without much more than a hiccup about this family’s [...]

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