Thursday, July 19, 2007

ESPN Zones Out

There's a great line in an old KING OF THE HILL episode where Connie stays with the Hills while her parents go to Maui on business. When Hank takes a look at the stack of reading material Connie brings with her, he says "Newsweek? Not in this house."

"Win-GO that Danica Patrick is Hot!"
"Shut up Dale."

Well, even Time reader and ardent sports fan Hank Hill would have to agree with Newsweek's recent evisceration of SportsCenter's "Who's Now" faux bracket-style competition, the latest evidence of ESPN's fall from glory.

"Everything about the segment is so artificial, from concept to execution, that watching it is like chewing Styrofoam."

Sad, but true. The departure from ESPN of longtime, arguably definitive SportsCenter anchor Dan Patrick further highlights the fact that slowly but very surely ESPN's focus has shifted away from cheeky-yet-highbrow sports reporting and killer highlights and inexorably towards populist celebutainment and tabloid pap.

How else to explain 25 year-old actress/Maxim girl Jessica Biel determining who is more "Now": Tiger Woods or Dwayne Wade?

Before we go any further, is there any doubt in anyone's mind that Tiger Woods is gonna "win"? Oh, right, nobody cares, because "Who's Now" is a meaningless and silly title determined by questionable arbiters of the zeitgeist like Biel, the ubiquitous Shaun White, and former Now-boy Keyshawn Johnson.

The guys at the barbershop are always wondering who would win between these two.

Maybe it's unfair to target ESPN for its overreliance on puff pieces, interminable tearjerker and image rehabilitation segments, and New York Post-style blowharding about off-the-field troubles with the law and/or spousal fidelity. Do we (or more to the point, should we) care more about what Brewers ace Ben Sheets' trip to the DL means to the NL Central pennant race or what Pacman Jones is alleged to have done outside a strip club two months ago? Is ESPN tarnishing it's golden goose by focusing so much time and effort on the sordid personal lives of these sports stars, or is it creating and stoking audience demand to find out what these Neanderthals have gotten themselves into this week?

That's an E-6 for ESPN if you're scoring at home... or if you're by yourself.

I guess I remember a time when ESPN doubters were uncomfortable with the perception that SportsCenter anchors like Keith Olbermann, Kenny Mayne and Craig Kilborn were stealing the spotlight away from the games they covered and onto themselves by incorporating their unique brand of humor into the telecasts. Isn't that preferable to both the increasingly interchangeable anchors and the games themselves taking a backseat to the soap-opera of what the athletes' off-field lives and Q ratings are like "Now"?


Anonymous said...

couldn't agree more. i would be really unhappy with this "who's now" business if i actually got to watch SC anymore. little ones around takes care of that.

Darth Weasel said...

another dead-on post. One match-up had Kevin James and Adam Sandler...a Met and Yankee fan...discussing some Yankee or other who of course came out on top in their mind. They, in the end, while more famous than you or I, are just random fans as well with no particular level of expertise.
Thankfully there are still shows like Baseball tonight where Kruk can actually illuminate us on stuff we care about. If I want to hear about drunks, druggies, and other assorted people of questionable intellect I can always watch the Skanks next Door or some other lowest common denominator...err, reality tv