SPORTS WATCH
Is ESPN Going Down the MTV Road?
by Gus Jarvis
May 17, 2012 | 1216 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Let me just come out and say it. ESPN is driving me crazy lately. I don’t know what it is anymore. Is it the total sports network it claims to be or is it some weird Disneyfied cable network that’s more dedicated to drama and the weak opinions of professional sports has-beens? ESPN has gone way downhill.

Throughout my adolescence, I grew up on ESPN and its flagship show Sports Center. Like most of the kids my age and the adults I looked up to, I loved ESPN. At the end of every evening, you could watch an hour of Sports Center, get caught up on everything that happened in the world of sports, watch a few impressive plays-of-the-day and get caught up on team standings. If nothing else was on you could always count on Sports Center. And when Sports Center wasn’t on, there would be some sport actually being played out.

At 2 a.m. you could catch a professional beach volleyball tournament, or the world’s strongest man competition. ESPN was a place to catch sports, plain and simple.

Today, there’s a whole lot of neon lights, a lot of different editions of Sports Center, and too many shows dedicated to those who have opinions we are all tired of hearing. I don’t need six hours of updated Sports Centers. I don’t need a breakdown show of the breakdown show that will break down the possibilities of the NFL draft. Just tell me who’s on the draft in two minutes or less. I don’t need theme music, flashing neon lights and holograms of football players telling me how to make a proper tackle. It’s all getting to be too much and they are getting away from what they should be known for: Sports. Frankly, ESPN is going the way of MTV. Remember when MTV actually played music videos? Well, we are close to the time when we will ask ourselves, “Remember when ESPN actually showed sports?”

OK, so I may going a little too far there. ESPN does show a few good sporting events here and there, especially college football, which we all know the network basically owns. They do some baseball games and have the occasional NBA game once or twice a week. But it’s all the other neon-lighted noise it airs that drives me crazy. That and the notion that it is trying to be a network providing serious news in a traditional journalistic fashion. That’s all fine and dandy. ESPN can be CNN all it wants, but not when ESPN is the main news generator – and that seems to be happening more and more lately.

Take for instance former Vikings wide receiver, now ESPN analyst Cris Carter’s news-making comments about a week ago. Carter, on some ESPN show (I can’t remember the name of them all) said he used to put bounties out on defender’s heads for protection. In one instance he said he put a bounty on former Bronco linebacker Bill Romanowski as a way to protect himself. Apparently, Romanowski told Carter before a game that he was going to take him out and end his career. In turn, Carter claims to have laid a bounty on Romanowski’s head with his fellow players as a kind of protection.

Of course, after Carter said this a news explosion took place and everybody wanted details on Carter’s alleged bounties, and did Romanowski actually say such things before games. Then Romanowski had to come off his couch and go on every cable and radio sports station to defend himself. For ESPN, Carter did a hell of a job creating some drama and people wanted to hear about it.

While it was all kind of interesting, I had a problem with it. The first question is why now? The sports media has been talking about bounties for the last three months. It has beat that dead horse into the ground as far as I am concerned. Now, Cris Carter wants to come out and say, after all this talk, that he’s laid bounties on player’s heads? Give me a break? Like Romanowski said in his defense, Carter is just trying to stay relevant. And if ESPN is such a good journalistic institution, wouldn’t you think it would send a reporter over to Carter’s house for a full interview and get the details. Like Dan Patrick said on The Dan Patrick Show, I’d like to hear who got paid and how much. Carter opened the door to that news story, now its time for him to spill the beans, if there are really any beans to spill. To me, it just seemed like a story made up by Carter to make news, news generated by ESPN.

A similar situation happened around the same time, just before the L.A. Lakers faced our Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of the opening round of the playoffs. (What a bummer of a loss.) Before that game, former NBA great and now ESPN analyst Magic Johnson made a statement on some neon-colored show that Lakers head coach Mike Brown, who is in his first year at that post, will be fired if they lose to the Nuggets in that Game 7 tilt. For whatever reason, that statement went viral. ESPN generated news? Yes. True? Probably not. ESPN is now in the business of making its own news. All of this is making ESPN look silly. They need to get back to reporting what happened in sports rather than reporting what ESPN said.

Here’s an idea. Instead of Sports Center’s top ten plays of the day, it should have a segment titled “Most Controversial Statements Made by ESPN Analysts Today.”

When I want to sit down and listen to sports or about sports, that's just what I want to do. I don’t need Cris Carter’s insight on bounties. He’s a wide receiver for God’s sake. I don’t need former New England linebacker, now ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi to come on and make a statement every time something bad is said about the Patriots. I don’t care. He’s a has-been.

In all of this, I hope ESPN can turn things around and become what it used to be. A total sports network. If not, I hope NBC’s push to be the leader in sports, which seems to be gaining ground with its new NBC Sports Network, will work. As it is right now, ESPN has lost sports and it has lost me.

gjarvis@watchnewspapers.com or @gusgusj
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