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the espn drone
as dull as the other side of the pillow
by mike julianelle
2.14.07
sports

So I was at the gym the other day, distracting myself from the sweaty people on the treadmills next to me, my excruciating boredom, and a general distaste with the gym atmosphere, by watching the small TV perched in front of my machine. I chose to stare at the TV but listen to my iPod. After all, that's one benefit of working out: quality alone time with the love of my life (Happy Valentine's Day, iPod!). Plus, when I saw what ESPN had to offer, I was never happier to be listening to music.

Once upon a time, ESPN and "SportsCenter" were pure genius: extensive, nonstop sports coverage that allowed viewers to see highlights from events all over the country without settling for Warner Wolf's 3-minute segment on the local news. This was groundbreaking stuff, and by the time Dan Patrick and Keith Olberman were done calling highlights, "SportsCenter" was en fuego. It was the stuff pop culture was made of.

Nowadays, the novelty has worn off. The internet has replaced the TV as the fastest resource for both news and snark, and "SportsCenter" has lost its luster. The anchors have become clones of themselves and desperately claw at new catchphrases (or painfully recycle old ones) and what was once breathtaking coverage of every major sporting event you could ever want has devolved into nonstop details on every minor piece of news that you've already read about online.

I submit: during my time on the treadmill I was treated to ten straight minutes of discourse on the reasons for, merits of and controversy behind Kobe Bryant's recently handed down one-game suspension. The night before, during a strangely violent halftime routine, Kobe had bludgeoned and set on fire a lifesize effigy of Shaquille O'Neal, at center court, in front of attendees NBA Commissioner David Stern and celebrity O.J. Simpson, who was at the game promoting his new book, I Didn't Kill Anyone Ever, I Am A Pacifist, But If I Were To Kill Anyone It Would Be All of You Bastard People For Not Letting Me Quietly Get Away With the Fact That I Murdered My Wife and Her Waiter. Wait. Shit. I Take That Back. I Didn't Kill Anyone. Ever.

I kid. Actually, the discussion was based around an incident at the end of a game against the San Antonio Spurs, in which Kobe threw an errant elbow into Manu Ginobili's eye while taking a jumpshot. When the segment began, I was pleased. I had yet to see the much-talked-about play, and some NBA talk was a welcome port in the ongoing storm of Super Bowl hype. But after watching 37 consecutive replays in slo-motion and from every conceivable angle, I wanted nothing more than to rip the television down and smash it against my face, and this was without even hearing Ric Bucher's and Stephen A. Smith's analysis.

It was a one-game suspension in the middle of the NBA season. Give it a mention, talk briefly about whether it was an overreaction by the NBA, especially in the face (zing!) of Ginobili himself absolving Kobe of any blame. 5 minutes, max.

But no. Today, every little blip of "news" gets covered to death -- up to and including actual deaths (Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle), animal deaths (that horse that didn't even come close to a Triple Crown) and non-deaths (that horse's ass who can no longer catch most passes).

Back in December, I was watching -- with sound -- an ESPN special on the top 10 sports stories of the year. What was number one? T.O.'s non-suicide. Huh?

Remember: T.O. didn't die. And he apparently wasn't even trying to. After all, why would he commit suicide when he has 25 million enemies who would love to murder him? Regardless, this non-story was built up into a major event by ESPN, culminating in its absurd placement atop their list. The coverage of the story far surpassed its content, so in effect, the network was actually calling their own coverage of something the #1 story of the year! Awarding that non-story the (admittedly meaningless) rank of #1 on that (admittedly meaningless) list is like giving myself a blow job and then asking my crotch to marry me. What?

ESPN, perhaps desperate to stay the Worldwide Leader in the face of the encroaching blogosphere, free access to highlights via YouTube et al, and a general increase in the ways in which one can watch games of all kinds, has become less about hyping sports and more about hyping themselves.

I always hear people say that the wave of the future will be the integration of television and the internet, via which we will have the ability to totally customize our TV viewing, down to choosing which sports' highlights we care about. I for once can't wait for that day, when we can finally eliminate the indecipherable "Ultimate Highlight," stop watching football analysts embarrass themselves with fake arguments and forced laughter, and silence the glib sportscaster who just heard the new Beyonce song and can't stop saying "to the left, to the left" during every crossover move.

I'm looking at you, Stuart Scott.


ABOUT MIKE JULIANELLE

Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".

more about mike julianelle

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COMMENTS

rob julianelle
2.14.07 @ 11:05a

I'm am 100% with you. Sportcenter has jumped the shark (that term has actually jumped the shark as well). I've been saying for months that their overkill coverage of everything NFL is nausiating! Enough already, we get it, you have monday night football and love the nfl, but we don't need 15 different anaylsts talking about each game! Plus, you're dead-on about the anchors, it's over Stuart Scott, go home please. You're catch phrases were funny in '94, but that was a long time ago. p.s., noone, and i mean no one cares about T.O.!!

mike julianelle
2.14.07 @ 11:10a

In other example of a fading sports outlet grasping at relevancy, Sports Illustrated released their swimsuit issue today, with Beyonce on the cover, in a clear attempt to get some attention by featuring a crossover celebrity. The swimsuit issue died close to ten years ago. It's too easy to get your fill of scantily clad women in any number of guy mags, or on the internet.

joe procopio
2.15.07 @ 11:32a

One thing I will credit and blame ESPN for is the creation of sporttainment like the awesome, addicitve PTI. Otherwise, I find myself turning to ESPN News and just watching the scroll with the sound off.

mike julianelle
2.15.07 @ 11:45a

That's what I do at the gym now, but when I can see it, I do enjoy PTI. But that's more for the chemistry Wilbon and Kornheiser have than anything else. Like Patrick and Olberman back in the day. You can't force that crap.

It got to the point where ESPN seemed to emphasize personality over actual content, and now the personalities are hollow and the content is forced.



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