Old Sports Media, Where It’s Always Opposite Day

I worked in the main sports media world for 16 years, where I’m delighted to report that opposite day is every day.

Chris Berman The Emperor Has No Clothes, Hair

(ESPN’s Emperor, regrettably, has no clothes)

It’s a world where networks like ESPN, which is joined at the hip financially with all the major sports leagues, pretends to cover those leagues objectively.

It’s a world where sportscasters like Jim Gray and Chris Berman get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but Angelina Jolie doesn’t.

(Sports media opposite day even somehow infects Hollywood!)

It’s a world where Bud Selig, perhaps the most dishonest and disingenuous commissioner in the history of pro sports, is never confronted with his lies and mismanagement of MLB by on-air employees of bought-off outlets.

It’s a world where ESPN refuses to extensively cover perhaps the highest profile case of cheating in NCAA football history - Reggie Bush’s family being paid off while he was at USC - because a competitor, YAHOO SPORTS, broke the story first. (And what’s bad for USC football is bad for ESPN’s revenues.)

Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush

(Off limits: Athlete making a$$ of himself with famewhore)

It’s a world where Mark Cuban calls for certain sports blogs to be “blacklisted” by ESPN(?) because he claims they make up rumors. Yet longtime NBA writers like Sam Smith and Peter Vecsey have made careers at “traditional” media outlets by fabricating stories. Stories that Cuban himself has often claimed were lies. (Not to mention Cuban lying to reporters about material news concerning his own team.)

It’s a world where Cuban also thinks it would be great if “traditional” newspaper beat writers were paid by the clubs they cover.

It’s a world where sports media only grudgingly reports off-field mischief of players, coaches and front office members - after main media has gotten the scoop. The reason? The same sports media outlets are minting millions in ad revenue from business arrangements with teams and leagues.

It’s a world where network announcers, like Joe Buck, get paid millions despite doing nothing to create ratings and revenue for their employers.

It’s a world where news features are created only as a vehicle for sponsorship revenue. (The Budweiser Hot Seat!)

It’s a world where the media condemns independent ticket brokers (scalpers!) but gives teams and leagues a pass when re-selling their own seats, ripping off fans. (See “secondary market”, not “scalping”.)

It’s a world where one of the NFL’s best reporters, Adam Schefter, gets drummed off NFL Network for breaking stories and reporting the truth.

It’s a world where baseball writers lovingly enshrine (winking) spitballers, bat corkers, greenie poppers and *gasp* GAMBLERS into Cooperstown, but steroid users are demonized and banned for life.

It’s a world where the pro sports league which has seen by far the most steroid use the past three decades, the NFL, gets a pass.

And finally, it’s a world where celebrity athletes enjoying all the trappings of a Hollywood celebrity’s lifestyle, with very little of the oft-embarassing, off-field coverage that accompanies Hollywood celebs in the same tax bracket. (Even athletes who intermingle with garden variety famewhores.)

Now you know why I started SbB. But the above list is not about blaming the suits at Bristol. If you had a money-printing machine on your hands, would you change anything? Would you be provocative and interesting if the check still cashed the same? (OK, I might.)

That’s precisely the reason you’ve seen personality and originality drained out of ESPN over the past couple decades. 20 years ago, something like Mike & Mike would have never been allowed to exist inside Bristol’s studios. Olbermann and Kilborn would’ve laughed it out of the building.

Today, M & M is the most recognizable original ESPN property there is - after SportsCenter.

No worries though, as we at SbB do solemnly pledge to keep on fighting to keep the horizontally-challenged main sports media in check. (That is, until we sign a broadcast deal with the Long Beach Armada.)