Okay, before I get to the meat – a quick link to an interesting article from the NY Times comparing political talk show hosts to rappers. I mean, who wouldn’t instantly compare Rush Limbaugh and Ludacris……….. Though the guy makes good points, so maybe they’re more alike than we ever realized.
So I probably should tip-toe around this topic since everyone knows my dream job would be to work in sports, and a certain company in Bristol, CT controls 90% of the world of sports. But there are a couple issues that I just don’t understand about the company. There are many, many things I do like – I religiously listen to Mike & Mike in the Morning, Colin Cowherd, and Scott Van Pelt. They have tremendous play-by-play guys for baseball and basketball like Mike Patrick, Mike Tirico, etc. But there are three major things I have to take them to task on: lack of objectivity with the news, coverage that only promotes themselves and the ex-athletes/coaches they throw on the air without any training or ability to actually sound semi-intelligent.
(1) Lack of Objectivity
There are numerous examples of times when the company twists the story or refuses to report a story because it is about an athlete that is one of their bell-cows for information and makes headlines for them. The most recent one was the story about the civil lawsuit against Ben Roethlisberger. The worldwide leader refused to report the story for the first 3-4 days while other outlets were all over it, claiming that they didn’t think it was a legit story to report. Yet, when Marvin Harrison was facing a civil lawsuit after a gun incident that took place outside his carwash, it was all over the shows on television and the radio. The difference? Ben is a superstar that provides his time and interviews to the myriad of shows and reporters the company puts on the Steelers and Harrison has always been a quiet, private and inaccessible athlete. So it benefits the company to not tick off a source of info, but it is okay to hang out Harrison since he doesn’t give them good quotes.
And the most glaring example? ODF – Old Diva Favre. Chris Mortensen should actually include “Brett Favre’s PR person” in his bio because the reporting he has done the past two years during Brett’s flip-flopping has not been reporting as much as it has been “spinning.” Even after Jay Glazer broke the story that Favre was going to return and that the Vikings players all knew he was going to join the team after mini camp, Mort kept insisting that he believed Favre and pimping how he talked to Favre. And the last thing Mort would want to do would be to bite the hand of Favre that feeds him good quotes and stories which can lead Sportscenter. So he kept up the charade and said whatever Favre wanted him to say.
(2) Self-Promotion Coverage
The examples here are pretty simple. As soon as the worldwide leader signs a contract to cover a sport (or a non-sport waste of television time like the World Series of Poker – which jumped the shark 3 years ago), it immediately becomes a major part of their highlight shows. When the NHL was on the worldwide leader, hockey highlights were a core portion of the show. Since hockey moved to Versus, you’re lucky to catch 3 hockey highlights at the tail end of Sportscenter, and a brief cameo by Barry Melrose’s mullet for laughs more than insight. NASCAR racing – before they signed on to broadcast races, there were NEVER racing highlights on Sportscenter other than the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500. Now there are full shows dedicated to the coverage. And most recently with soccer – once they signed the English Premier League for Saturday mornings (and I believe they have the world cup – if not them, then their sister station ABC). Now we get regular coverage and they hired a bunch of former players, Alexi Lalas, John Harkes, etc. to provide insight and promote their own coverage.
(3) Unprepared/Overload of Ex-Athletes/Coaches
So is there an athlete in the NFL specifically who won’t go work for the worldwide leader as soon as they’re done playing? At what point is it oversaturation and lack of value added? Once you already have a half-dozen former players and coaches giving their opinions, what does adding another half dozen, screaming tools add to the shows? While there are some guys that are very good and have loads of knowledge bombs to drop, many have recently been dumped on the air without any training that are nowhere near ready. The obvious example is Emmitt Smith. He was horrendous in both his lack of knowledge of the English language, and his insights on football. Great football players do not instantly equal good on-air talent. This summarizes Emmitt better than I ever could from Awful Announcing.
And I could go on and on with guys that don’t really bring any knowledge or talent – Marcellus Wiley brings sweet fancy suits to the television, but won’t ever be critical of any of his buddies or his former teams. Darren Woodson is useless and Tim Hasselbeck is less prepared for television than his wife was after being on survivor. Trent Dilfer could eventually be very good – he seems intelligent, but he recently put together an article on QBs assessing them basically on whether or not they won a super bowl. Trent – we get it, you have a super bowl ring – but it was not because of what you did, it was because of what you didn’t do (turn the ball over at all) while Ray Lewis knifed his way to the championship. But I’m willing to give him a pass because he didn’t immediately show up on television unable to speak or communicate an opinion. Or Herm Edwards, who would be more valuable if he just popped up every once in a while to say “You play to win the game.” And Tedy Bruschi, who barely finished his shower after retiring before he appeared on air, is not ready for prime time. Again, seems like an intelligent guy, but his homer-ism for the Patriots and inability to offer constructive criticism of his former team or any players will be a downfall.
Again, the vast majority of the things with the worldwide leader are good, and they are the worldwide leader for a reason. But those are just a few of the things that drive me crazy in their coverage of my favorite past time of sports. And they are continuing on their world domination by starting to take over the local markets – see their addition of espnchicago.com and espnboston.com. Their goal is the complete and total domination of all the sports world and I hope they don’t get it. The local papers, blogs, and a lot of the insiders provide the real stories and the real scoops on many of the stories that the worldwide leader doesn’t want to or won’t tell.