By RAMZY NASRALLAH
One Great Season
Everyone hates ESPN. Everyone needs ESPN. The Worldwide Leader is basically the dentist, except you go there daily instead of every six months. You don't necessarily hate ESPN's televised poker, bland radio shows like "Mike & Mike" that have no value or Colin Cowherd because ultimately, they're all avoidable. Out of site, out of mind, right?
What isn't avoidable is its vast sports programming, and from the Big Four professional sports to all things college, if you don't have ESPN you're missing most of it, and that's just not an option. There are definitely more than 10 things you cannot stand about ESPN, however, I can count to 10 without working very hard, and so you can you:
SURVEY: The Best & Worst Of ESPN
1. Unsolicited, incorrect interpretation of sports. This suddenly began about 10 years ago when ESPN began floating questions nobody was asking while framing matchups between teams in ways that made no sense: "Are the Lakers Shaq’s team or Kobe’s team?" The most reliable and inexpensive method of promoting stars and thereby capturing short attention spans is by asking shallow, rhetorical questions. (The second most reliable way is, um, making lists...)
ESPN created mindless, nonsensical marquees like "this Sugar Bowl is all about Michael Vick versus Peter Warrick" or "on Sunday, Peyton Manning takes on Tom Brady." No. That's not how football works. Offensive players do not play against each other. After about 20 years of successfully providing coverage for previously inaccessible sporting events and news, ESPN shifted toward framing sports broadcasts, and above all else, that's what makes ESPN programming insufferable.
2. Autoplay multimedia that cannot be stopped on ESPN.com. You're sitting quietly in your cubicle, hating your career and you take time out from your daily job search to visit the ESPN Web site for a daytime baseball score, as you always do. All of a sudden, a goddamned Mountain Dew commercial starts screaming out of your computer without warning. Nobody on earth likes or appreciates autoplay multimedia. Nobody wants it, yet ESPN.com has been giving it to you for years, obviously because ESPN hates you and wants you to get fired before you find a new job to hate.
3. Groupies as commentators. Watching grown men slobber all over professional athletes is as disgusting and uncomfortable as having two gross, moaning people next to you on the bus making out with each other. I'm looking at you, Stuart Scott, even though you're not looking at me. Or maybe you are. Never can be sure.
4. Selective reporting. The same entity that went to desperate attempts to breathe life into a Maurice Clarett non-scandal for several years that the NCAA fully investigated twice and concluded did not exist completely avoided reporting anything regarding the three-year investigation at Southern California until after it was concluded. Just one example of many where ESPN producers graciously decided on your behalf what was newsworthy and what wasn't. If you haven't already read Will Leitch’s God Save the Fan, pick it up and you'll be reminded of about a dozen others that weren't deemed ESPN-worthy.
5. Terrell Owens, Manny Ramirez, LeBron James, Roger Clemens, Brett Favre and the perpetual, artificial manufacturing and inflating of stories that should only be passing news items or off the radar entirely. ESPN used to be a network that featured creative delivery and sports discussion with depth and thought, from the late Tom Mees to the now-banished-to-old-man-viewing-hours Bob Ley, while also finding intelligent ways to connect with younger, triple-digit IQs through personalities like Dan Patrick, Craig Kilborn, Roy Firestone, Charley Steiner and Keith Olbermann. The old guard was apparently far too cerebral for ESPN's target audience, the single-celled amoeba that actually name their children after ESPN.
6. Were you aware that the Mississippi River is actually the Pacific Ocean, with the Island of Los Angeles the only land mass between St. Louis and Japan? #thingsIlearnedfromwatchingESPN #eastcoastbias
7. While we will be forever indebted to the unprecedented access it has given its consumers to college football (I am old enough to have listened to an entire Ohio State football game on the radio through a telephone that was laid next to it), ESPN now manipulates and enables much of the corruption that goes into determining college football's fabricated national championship. When you own the broadcasting rights for the overwhelming majority of bowl games, you're in the pockets of the bowl system's coffers, and you have to stay on their message, even if you're a news organization.
At ESPN, there cannot be a free-thinking, independent press under the same roof with its divisions that are partnered with and reliant upon the sports entities that it broadcasts, much in the same way Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting couldn't both do business with the same clients honorably without compromising themselves. In any other industry, this is referred to as "conflict of interest." There is no Sarbanes-Oxley for sports journalism, otherwise the ESPN as you know it would cease to exist.
8. ESPN consciously allows every season of college basketball to be poisoned by Dick Vitale. Vitale is fortunate Youtube didn't exist when he dropped a series of epithets when describing then-Indiana Hoosier Lawrence Funderburke in the early 1990s during a commercial timeout that was heard by everyone watching the game's direct satellite feed. His broadcasting career never would have recovered and he would be remembered more for the lousy coach that he was rather than the incessantly loud attention whore that he is. Damn you, pre-Internet era!
9. Hyperbole as a standard exercise in framing the news. "Is [insert current player or event] the [greatest/worst] [said current player or event] of all-time?" Often times, by the grace and inconvenience of reality, news and current events are inescapably boring. On ESPN, that does not matter, because all sports are packaged as interesting and dramatic even when they are not. You realize this when a routine ground ball is forcibly transformed into a "Web Gem" on Baseball Tonight. This is only aggravating if you possess the capacity to think critically and realize when you're merely being sold a bag of shit in a very pretty bag.
10. That ESPN is totally unavoidable in your life. You're trapped in this marriage, sister.
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