"WELCOME TO TEBOWCENTER"
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 18:10
ESPN has done a lot of good things. As the first full-time American sports television channel, they have covered a lot of events and have undoubtedly increased the popularity of sports as a whole in the United States. The company also provided a platform for fans to get information and share their opinions, thanks to their multitude of TV shows, radio stations and websites.
Yet, ESPN is far from perfect. Long-time watchers will know what I mean when I say I have grown sick of their selfish, pandering, ratings-first attitude. ESPN has become too big for its own good.
Like all TV networks, ESPN strives for good ratings. This makes sense—to a degree. Ratings equal revenue and money makes the world go ‘round. But you can become so focused on ratings you lose track of your journalistic ideals, and that’s what ESPN has done.
There’s one thing in particular the company does that drives me up the wall. ESPN takes interesting and notable topics and rams them down the viewer’s throat. They simply refuse to shut up about certain things.
A few years ago it was Brett Favre, Brett Favre and Brett Favre. Then it was Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods and then LeBron James, LeBron James and LeBron James. But now, it’s worse than ever.
ESPN has become the Tim Tebow Show. The network simply will not stop talking about the New York Jets’ backup quarterback. Yes, football is the nation’s preferred sport, and yes, Tebow is an interesting story. It is also true ESPN is not the only network with a Tebow fetish. But they are the worst. No other backup quarterback—heck, perhaps no other NFL player—gets the coverage Tebow gets.
Liam Neeson visited ESPN a few weeks ago. Naturally, ESPN had him on the air, since that’s what all the cool sports networks do—they bring in celebrities with no connection to sports. Neeson was asked what he thought about the third-year quarterback. The actor, who is from Ireland and has only seen two football games in his life, said the interviewer was “speaking ancient Arabic.”
Having Neeson, a figure with no connection to sports, on the air is bad enough. Asking him about a sport he doesn’t understand is worse. And cramming a mention of Tebow in there is worst of all.
I guarantee you Tebow receives more mentions than the NHL lockout. And “SportsCenter” is not the worst offender.
No, that “honor” belongs to the cesspool of stupidity known as “First Take,” also known as the place where the brainless duo of Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless argue incessantly. Actually, it isn’t even arguing. Rather, they just yell inane comments at one another, mostly about how Tebow will save the world from the Mayan apocalypse and win both the Super Bowl and Wimbledon while doing so.
You think I’m exaggerating? Then watch the show and witness your IQ drop by 30 points. The point is, ESPN gets carried away—kind of like I did there.
ESPN insists Tebow is a story. In doing so, they make him a story. As the biggest sports network in America, they have a duty to report on the news fairly and accurately. All too often, they forget this and start creating news. If Mickey Mantle returned from the grave and hit a home run to win the World Series for the New York Yankees, Tebow’s run to Dunkin’ Donuts would still be the opening story on SportsCenter.
Tim Tebow isn’t the first iteration of this phenomenon, nor will he be the last, sadly. With ESPN so focused on not just reporting the news but on creating it, the network’s credibility will continue to decay. The channel may make huge profits, and it may be popular, but what it’s doing is an embarrassment to everyone.
Sports fans get sick of hearing about ESPN’s figure of the day, and journalists become frustrated with ESPN dragging their profession’s good name through mud, using it—and abusing it—for ratings. It’s a farce.
ESPN also comes under some fire for stealing scoops. When a reporter with another company breaks a story, they will sometimes report it, crediting it to “sources.” That’s pretty vague. And a journalistic no-no.
It’s something that has happened on multiple occasions in the past few months. Those journalists deserve to be credited for their work, not relegated to as a “source.”
ESPN needs to realize that they have a duty—to present sports news fairly and accurately. They owe it to their viewers and to journalists everywhere. The company has become too much like a business, so devoted to being successful that it has completely forgotten how to report the news rather than make it.
Matt Bittle is a Sports Editor at The Review. Send questions, comments and a new host for Sunday NFL Countdown to firstname.lastname@example.org