Way back in 1979, when Scott Rasmussen and dad, Bill, were trying to start ESPN, the idea of a cable network dedicated to 24-hour sports coverage was an amazingly tough sell. No one in corporate television bought the pitch, all on the assumption that there simply wasn’t enough sports coverage to fill up a full network. Of course, we all know the ending to this story.
By 1993 ESPN had grown so large that ESPN2 was created, and their signature program SportsCenter was only running a couple of times a day. These glory years of the station had absolutely awesome lineups, like rock-crawling motorcycles followed by NFL charity arm-wrestling tournaments and martial arts brick-smashing competitions. I especially remember, around 1997, watching a positively scintillating miniature golf championship. From its inception, ESPN had always been dedicated to providing hairy-chested sporting glory in every shape and form, and nothing had come close to matching it.
Now, just a year away from its 30th birthday, ESPN blows. It pisses me off to say it, but I’ve seen more creativity in the grout puns scrawled around campus shitters than what these idiots in expensive suits spew out every day. Between SportsCenter running eight times a day and two hours of repetitive talk shows, there’s only time left to play an East Coast baseball game and then repeat it twice. And ESPN2, what was originally billed as the “alternative” station (anyone remember the extreme logo they use to use?), is just a venue for six-year-old billiards tournaments and the World Series of Poker being broadcast for the thousandth time.
I left the country in mid-March to the tales of Brett Favre wanting to come out of retirement, and when I returned three months later that’s the first thing I heard about. Shit, I’m still hearing about it. Between that and Josh Hamilton getting his balls gargled by every host, I haven’t heard about anything else in the sports world. It’s not that I don’t care about either story, but I can’t take them as being the focus of attention more than a couple times a week, let alone several times a day.
My opinions? Favre is one of the game’s greatest, but he needs to stop being such a pussy baby attention whore and play ball or quit. Hamilton is obviously talented, but I have a hard time swallowing the heaps of praise he gets for “overcoming intense circumstances.” It’s not like he had cancer or went to war; the dude started smoking crack on his own accord. I never heard anyone giving hours of love a day to ODB after he quit hitting the crack pipe and then saved a little girl’s life.
The biweekly cycle is getting ridiculous. Every talking head spent June talking about the Tampa Bay Rays dominating and the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees sucking ass. Of course, there was no mention of my beloved Los Angeles Angels’ better record than the Sox and Yankees for that entire time, but I’ve written about ESPN’s East Coast bias already.
In any case, as soon as July hit, the Rays’ time in the limelight was over. They had a losing streak before the All-Star break, and immediately they were written off by all of the surprisingly like-minded analysts ESPN has jabbering all day. Soon the network — and every sportswriter in the country who just writes about what ESPN talks about — will drop Hamilton and Favre for two more stories in their two-week rotation. I’m predicting Peyton Manning’s knee and Chad Johnson looking for a team, with Rasheed Wallace’s Facebook getting the longshot bid.
What’s truly depressing about ESPN’s commentators chasing each other’s tails is how much they are willing to cut out for the sanctity of their covered stories. I’ve never been so furious as when Justin Morneau got bumped from the first interview spot after he won the Home Run Derby. Then, after the jackass wearing a polo shirt under his suit called him “Jason” while giving him the victory check, ESPN and every sports columnist I could find only spoke about Hamilton.
That’s simply offensive to the profession, but I don’t see the situation changing any time soon. I suppose I might as well give in, because I don’t see them giving up their death grip on the sporting world anytime soon. I hope they’ll still hire me with “fuck ESPN” tattooed across my knuckles.