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Friday, July 15, 2005

mgoblog has many posts ripping ESPN for doing stupid things. Now ESPN will have articles doing the same: they've hired an ombudsman. Good for them, although I doubt it will do much good. There's been an upwelling of popular anger at sports broadcasting over the past few years. We've entered the Stephen A. Smith era of sports broadcasting and, I hate to say it, but it's not Smith's fault. At least, not entirely. It's not like SAS is exactly unique. Every show now has a designated loud annoying Jim Rome wannabe (Trev Alberts and Mark May for the college football fans). There's always someone in Smith's ear urging him to play the obnoxious hoodrat, and he works for ESPN. Smith is the tool via which we are hurt, and as such deserves scorn, but he's Jaws or Oddjob in this particular James Bond movie. If the collective ill will of the fan community miraculously gives Smith throat cancer via sheer hatred, another will pop up in his place. He will be directed to scream loudly by the faceless man with the cat. The cycle will begin anew.

Twins blogger extraordinare Batgirl summed the backlash up neatly in a post excoriating (hurray!) Fox's coverage of the All Star Game:

See, I think if you have to spend a lot time thinking about how you're going to keep people entertained during a baseball game, then you're probably not the best entity to broadcast said game.
Substitute sport of choice for 'baseball'. (Also, if you'd like to see baseball take it in the nuts, head over to The Bemusement Park.)

That's essentially what sports broadcasting has become these days: a constant attempt to interest people in something they have no interest in. Not me: broadcast networks have me by the nuts because I have to watch the game. They can cut away from live action to show celebrities, they can have some vaguely attractive bimbo interview Mathew McConaughey on the sideline, they can put together some ninth-level-of-hell broadcasting team featuring Bill Walton, Dick Vitale, and Joe Theisman, and I still have to watch. They know this. So they tailor their broadcasts to catch the kind of people who wouldn't normally watch sports, who need a giant animated baseball explaining what a changeup is, and in the process make me very, very angry.

And it's not just me. Witness the "Road From Bristol" (HT: Off Wing Opinion), which endeavors to:
determine, via a time-tested method (the 64-team elimination tournament as seen in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, which ESPN used to show in its pre-sucking days) which ESPN broadcasting personality is the most totally loathsome and most deserves to suffer permanent paralysis of the vocal cords.
It started on Tuesday. Its first subregional collected over 500 votes. (Shockingly, Mitch Albom and Trev Alberts lost opening round matchups... mgoblog blames the fact that the Road From Bristol is currently hosted on a baseball blog).

Meanwhile, ESPN's ombudsman spent his first column
  • declaring that the Kenny Rogers thing shouldn't have been shown so much,
  • criticizing the decision to lead a single episode of SportsCenter with the NASCAR Pepsi 400 instead of Venus Williams, and
  • asking for a better corrections policy.
Valid items all, but fundamentally superficial, aren't they? None of those things have anything to do with the real, growing discontent with the way ESPN is getting MTV-ized, which is all the more tragic because ESPN used to be awesome. Dan and Keith! Dan and Kenny! Whither, whither, whither. MTV always sucked, now it just sucks different. I used to love ESPN.

Sports fans are fed up, and they're... well, they're probably going to keep on taking it, because they have to. But goddammit if I ever figure out who the ESPN Blofeld is there will be a terrible reckoning. A vast and terrible reckoning.