If you have ever had even the faintest interest in sports, you have heard of ESPN. ESPN, which originally stood for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, is the go-to outlet for sports media throughout the United States.
Since its beginnings, ESPN has adapted to its audience, and as a result it has become a source of constant and enormous revenue. In 1992, ESPN introduced ESPN Radio and then in 1993 added a second television channel with ESPN2. Since then, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPNews and an additional online streaming website named WatchESPN have hit the market with resounding success. Nowadays, the estimated worth of ESPN has skyrocketed north of $50 billion, according to Forbes, and competing outlets such as Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports barely stand a chance.
However, sometime during the 30-plus years of success, ESPN lost its identity. It no longer caters to the sports nerd, and instead caters to the uneducated sports fan. It no longer focuses on riveting analysis and hard reporting, and instead televises biased, artificial debate talk shows. Shows such as “Stump the Schwab,” which was a trivia contest between fans and ESPN employee Charles Schwab, were cancelled and replaced with shows like “SportsNation” and “First Take.”
“SportsNation,” hosted by Michelle Beadle, boxing announcer Max Kellerman and former NFL player Marcellus Wiley, never lacks idiocy as the aforementioned Wiley seems to use one or two lousy social media references in every segment of the show.
“First Take,” starring Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, is equally idiotic. The two go back and forth debating about what’s hot in sports. The concept of the show isn’t awful, but the personalities are just too much. Bayless and Smith, who are obviously paid for their outlandish opinions, constantly spew borderline nonsense.
Stephen A. Smith recently came under fire for making comments that suggested that both Chip Kelly and Tom Brady are racist. Smith accused Kelly for trading LeSean McCoy, a black running back, while retaining the services of Riley Cooper, a white wide receiver who was infamously filmed shouting racist remarks at a country concert, and Brady for not attending the White House for the Patriots’ Super Bowl celebration.
What Smith failed to remember was that before starting Nick Foles in Week 1 last year, Chip Kelly hadn’t started a white quarterback in the first game of the season during his time as a head coach, and that Tom Brady has been seen in public with President Barack Obama in the past.
Even “SportsCenter” has lost its allure. Previously predicated on delivering highlights from the day, “SportsCenter” now simply indulges itself in love affairs with certain athletes. The casual viewer cannot watch a 60-minute segment without hearing about LeBron James or Tim Tebow or Tiger Woods or Johnny Manziel. Tebow and Manziel are not currently NFL starting quarterbacks and Woods is now ranked as the 181st best golfer in the world. And just three weeks ago, during the NBA playoffs, “SportsCenter” ran a segment on whether LeBron was wearing his headband or not. That is the riveting sports analysis that ESPN now has to offer.
The problems with ESPN don’t end there. Bill Simmons, previously employed by ESPN and known for speaking his mind, was suspended three weeks for slandering NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell while he was an ESPN employee. In a separate incident, the aforementioned Stephen A. Smith was suspended a mere week for suggesting Ray Rice’s fiancee, and women in general, provoked their domestic violence incidents. Which one of these incidents deserved the larger punishment?
To make matters worse, just a few months later, ESPN gave Smith a contract extension. If anything, ESPN lacks consistency, but that’s nothing abnormal. Ever since the publication of Mike Freeman’s 2000 book ESPN: The Uncensored History that highlighted employees’ drug use, gambling, and sexual harassment issues, it has been easy to question ESPN’s integrity.
It’s obvious that ESPN’s motivations are transparent, and outside of maybe a few programs, the channel lacks any analysis. And I’ve come to grips that it’s not going to change since that is where the money is, but it’s still aggravating to me, and many others, how ESPN has ruined the sports journalism industry.
Jake Foote is a rising sophomore in the College. The Hot Stove appears every Thursday.