Thursday, August 6, 2009

SI's Frank Deford speaks about ESPN

He's in the Sportswriter HoF so he probably has something valuable to say. Here's an excerpt from his short article pointing out the biggest problem with ESPN:

"A couple of weeks ago, ESPN initially refused to report the news that was everywhere else headlined — that Pittsburgh's Super Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had been accused of sexual assault. The network's excuses were too noble by half, because there's a double standard, and ESPN is known to cozy up to the very superstars it purports to cover.

Just suppose that CNN regularly had cutesy commercials for CNN starring Nancy Pelosi, John McCain and Rahm Emanuel. Well, that's the equivalent of what ESPN regularly does with top sports personalities. The practice is, simply, a journalistic disgrace, and, because ESPN is so powerful, it diminishes the integrity of all sports journalism."

Now we here at ESPNfail did not cover the Roethlisberger issue because it was in the past when we started writing and we try to stay as current as possible. However, while we're on the subject, we might as well say something. It took about 48 hours for ESPN to report the story that Ben Roethlisberger was accused of raping someone. Why was that? They had issued a 'do not report' memo to all their employees. They claimed this was because the matter was a civil complaint, which they don't cover out of fairness to the athlete. however it was picked up by the Associated Press. It was clearly a story, and it was clearly a story ESPN had reasons for not covering.

Why was this? Speculation said from sites like Deadspin that it might have something to do with the fact that ABC is a sister network of ESPN. Big Ben is set to appear on ABC's upcoming reality show Shaq Vs. where he competes against other athletes in their sports. It would not surprise me at all that they did not want this story to come out because it might hurt ratings on this show.

Even more scary though, is when Deford says that "ESPN is known to cozy up to the very superstars it purports to cover." This is hitting the nail on the head. ESPN wants to have all the

access to these athletes so they ask puffball questions like when Jim Rome asks a typical guest "Peyton, you won the MVP last year and had your best statistical season yet, how awesome is it to be you?" (I paraphrase). Jim Rome can be saved for his own post though. ESPN is grooming plenty of these guys to be future talking heads on their shows. I definitely wouldn't bet against Brett Favre appearing on NFL Live in the next couple of years. How are we supposed to trust a network that clearly doesn't ask the tough question? It seems to me Deford is saying we can't, but that ESPN has such a stranglehold on the industry that we have no alternative but to obey their false idols. We are not worthy!


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