"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Personality Disorder

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(ESPN, in a nutshell)

Dear ESPN:

In the most humble way possible, I would like to express to you a sentiment that’s been rumbling inside me for quite some time. To whit: blow it out your ass.


Seems the folks in Bristol are getting just a bit sick of all this Red Sox business. They’re tired of Curt Schilling’s bloody sock being front and center. They’re annoyed with Johnny Damon’s continued appearances. They’re bored stiff with the constant talk of 86 years rewarded. Boo-frickin’- hoo. To hear them talk – or read what they’ve written – the only thing worse than the constant Sox talk would be continued Yankee ball-washing. Well thank god we’ve never had to suffer through that. Oh, wait…

Look, I hate even giving creedence to something so asinine as this "issue" but it's been a metaphorical pebble in my shoe for a while now. Someone correct me if I’m wrong since I obviously don’t live on the same planet as the geniuses at ESPN, but do they not consider themselves the leader in sports entertainment? Do they not show SportsCenter 57 times a day? Do they not have a whopping four channels – ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic and, for our Spanish friends, ESPN Deportes? So, in essence, don’t they create this hype they profess to be so bloody sick of?

Look, I don’t know how it works in the rest of the nation because I’m part of a smaller, much more passionate one, and proud of it, but I believe a bit of today’s Daily Quickie on ESPN.com’s Page 2 sums up this internal crisis nicely.

Item the first: Curt Schilling, biggest star and leader of the Red Sox will make his 2005 debut against the Yankees (and Wright) in a Must-See tonight. (7, ESPN2)

Item the second: Two Words For You: SOX. FATIGUE.

Okay, so let me get this straight. ESPN, and, if we’re going with their estimation, the rest of the country, nay, the world, is sick of the Red Sox. But the game tonight is MUST SEE! Oh, and you can only see it on ESPN2! Your worldwide leader in sports!

Now, I’m not a psychiatrist. I have no medical training and most of the people in my life are relatively balanced, but I think even the most amateur of armchair psychologists would diagnose ESPN with a severe case of paranoid schizophrenia with a nasty dose of self-loathing.

ESPN has been for quite some time, the media equivalent of the insecure prom queen. The one who wore the corset dress that jacked her boobs up to her neck, ten gallons of make-up, fake hair extensions and 5-inch stilettos only so that when people did stop and stare she could dramatically fling her perfectly manicured French tips across her face and shriek, “Don’t look at me! I’m hideous!”

So…do we look or not? Do we watch the endless repeats of SportsCenter which flash Curt Schilling’s ubiquitous bloody sock onscreen approximately every twelve seconds or do we turn away? Do we watch the “Winter of Bliss” programming about the winter as World Champions for Sox fans or do we turn to another option, perhaps Baseball Tonight featuring shots of the Ring Ceremony? Which is it, ESPN? Do you want us to love you or hate you?

I can’t speak for the rest of the sports-obsessed world but my little corner of it has been mighty sick of ESPN for quite some time. I grew up in a house where SportsCenter was turned on before the first morning pee and it created the soundtrack to our mornings. Breakfast, teeth brushing, make-up application, coffee, all took place with SportsCenter highlights flashing in the background. It was the Cliffs Notes on sports for a very busy family with not much time to read the papers every day. Got us updated, let us know the score, as it were and sent us on our way. Informative and to the point. Excellent. Good way to start the day. But then, things changed. I’m not sure when it happened or what exactly did happen, I just know that somewhere along the way, ESPN became a giant vacuum of self-referential suck. They stopped showing capsule game highlights and starting putting Maurice Clarrett on the Budweiser Hot Seat. There were less Web Gems and more Silver Bullet Spotlights. Somewhere along the way, the media eclipsed the message.

I hardly ever watch SportsCenter anymore. I stick mostly to SportDesk, NESN’s fifteen-minute repeating highlight and recap show that runs every morning from 5-9am. I could do without uber-perky host Hazel Mae but it's New England sports-centric with just enough national sports news to keep me from retreating into a figurative cave of my own ignorance. And when I do turn on ESPN? Oh, would you look at that, they’re talking about the Red Sox.

This is not a problem for me, obviously. The more coverage the better. I’ll admit to maybe wanting Johnny Damon to tone it down a bit, if for no other reason than he needs to remember how to hit a fastball right quick, but as for the continued barrage of information about the defending World Champion Red Sox? Carve me off a piece of that!

Bill Simmons aside, ESPN certainly has a love/hate relationship with itself. Just today on Page 2 they’re bitching about Johnny Damon’s shirtless vacation photos which appear on, I shit you not, Page 3. Yesterday they ran a column – a poorly written column, by the way – entitled “86 Reasons to Hate the Red Sox.” Today, front page on ESPN.com is that photo of Schilling’s sock again, hyping tonight’s contest against the Yankees. Really, ESPN, this should be something your therapist can help you work through.

You claim that Red Sox fever, or whatever you’re calling it, is impossible to avoid, simply because the sheer nature of it is everywhere. Really? I’m pretty sure if migrant farm workers in Dubai want to skip the Globe sports section they can do that just fine. Coffee shop owners in San Francisco are probably not bombarded with the Herald’s visual assaults of Manny Ramirez’s tonsorial transgressions every morning as they make their way to work. And hairstylists in Juneau, Alaska don’t usually greet the day to the Whiner Line on WEEI. But these people do watch ESPN. And they see the same things the rest of us see. If you choose to lead off with a story about Trot Nixon’s verbal smacks at A-Rod, that’s what they’re going to hear. My point, ESPN, is that it’s your bloody fault. Sick of it? Stop showing it. As Amy put it so very eloquently, “Boston doesn't need you. Boston does fine in its own corner of the US. So don't show 80 million promos for the season opener and then gripe about having enough of it.”

Really. You take some time, and deal with this personal crisis you clearly have going. And if it’s all too much, give us back Bill Simmons and we’ll make a clean break. Stop the whining, you sound like Yankees fans.