I quit ESPN. No, that’s not entirely accurate. It might be more accurate to say that I stepped away from ESPN for a while. I took a little vacation from ESPN. It was driving me crazy. I had to do it. And now that I have, I’m so glad that I did. ESPN was slowly driving me insane.
I should start by saying that I was an ESPN junkie. I could easily take in 3 SportsCenter’s, an Outside the Lines, Around the Horn and Pardon The Interruption in a single day. Sometimes it was more. Maybe it’s not really meant to be watched that much? It’s certainly not healthy.
The problem became that I started loathing certain people. It began with Brett Favre, it continued to LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Jerry Sandusky and of course, Tim Tebow. I hate them. I hate all with a mighty passion. Sandusky, clearly deserves my hatred, but the others? What have they done? Brett Favre should be someone I hate as a lifelong Bears fan, but until ESPN ruined him, what I had was a grudging respect for him. He was a warrior on the field and I wished that he could have played for my team. He was a class act and fun to watch. Now, I get the anger shakes the second someone mentions his name and if I ever see Rachel Nichols reporting live from a high school in Favre’s home town again I cannot be held responsible for whatever it is I do next. I will plead ESPN-induced insanity and no judge in the country would lock me up.
It’s not easy filling a 24-hour news cycle. Or, perhaps it’s that ESPN tries to make it easy. Instead of finding the best stories out there from the many professional athletes available for study, ESPN finds a story, makes it bigger than it needs to be, inundates us and saturates us with so much of the story that we start to resent the person it’s about because we grow tired of them and then bleeds the story of every last drop of blood it can give.
ESPN is a vampire.
Take Tim Tebow as an example. There isn’t any reason to hate him. None. He is a good guy. I could do without the, “All praise to Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior,” stuff. Jesus didn’t help you win the game Tim. He doesn’t care about football. Trust me. He also doesn’t want to be in a sentence that’s butted up against another where you praise your rotund, loud-mouthed coach. I think Jesus prefers to remain as separate as possible from Rex Ryan. But that’s it. That’s my only complaint about him. I’ll give him this much, Tebow walks the walk too. He reaches out to the poor, to prisoners, to children suffering across the globe. He doesn’t say bad things about his teammates or the other team. He plays hard. He gives his all. There really isn’t anything to dislike about him.
But, I hate him. I do. I hate Tim Tebow. Why do I hate Tim Tebow? Because every time he brushes his teeth ESPN puts together a panel of former players to discuss how he did it, if he did it good enough and if he should be allowed to continue to do it—or if he should be made to let his teeth rot. In fact, that Tebow hasn’t snapped and choked a sideline reporter to death is yet another reason to like the man, but I am so sick of even hearing his name that I could find out tomorrow that he’s the Second Coming and I’d wind up converting to Judaism.
And these former players! ESPN hires all of these former players to do commentary and I hate most of them too! Tim Hasselbeck? Tim Hasselbeck is going to sit on that fancy set and criticize professional football players? Tim Hasselbeck once had a 0.0% passer rating in game against the Dallas Cowboys! He threw 6 completions and 4 interceptions in that game! He may quite possibly be one of the worst players to ever play his position but that doesn’t stop him for a moment from spewing absolute venom at current players. At least Mark Schlereth had a notable career and achieved some success as a player, but it’s hard listening to him talk too.
Angry and loud, that’s what ESPN seems to coach their analysts to be. Then they pair them up on a set and let them scream at each other about how horrible today’s players are and how tough it was back when they played. ESPN has become a retirement community filled with angry, grumpy, retired old men who sit around and bitch about how easy these young fellers have it these days and how they ought better appreciate the struggles they went through to give them the opportunity they have today. I can only hope that ESPN hires one hell of an Arts & Crafts director to help get these guys blood pressure down after doing all of their rant sessions.
It was during a Tim Hasselbeck rant that I finally lost all patience and started flipping channels. I came across The Dan Patrick Show, which, in addition to being a sports radio show, is now also broadcast on television. Patrick, a former SportsCenter host who did his share to put ESPN on the map, is now more like the anti-ESPN. When his producer mentions Tim Tebow, Patrick actually, physically cringes. There was no yelling. No one was screaming. The former athletes that he had on as guests gave insightful opinions and when they went astray, Patrick reeled them back in—or at very least offered contrast to outrageous opinions.
I had an epiphany. I needed to give up ESPN. I was in deep. I was an addict, but I needed to give it up. ESPN, the “Worldwide Leader In Sports” was making me…hate sports.
So, I did. I gave up ESPN, with one exception. I still DVR Pardon The Interruption every day. I enjoy Wilbon & Kornheiser. Wilbon, in particular, seems to be leery himself of the over-hype and over-saturation of some players, teams and stories that ESPN pounds home with the relentlessness of Fox News crafting story lines for the Republican base. And it was with that analogy that I understood exactly what had been done to me. I came looking for news and got sucked into a deliberate and crafted narrative that was aimed at getting me riled up, getting me to hate certain sports figures, getting me to be angry and most importantly, getting me to keep coming back for more.
I had to get away. And get away, I did. It’s not easy though. I love sports. I love talking about sports, I love thinking about sports, I love hearing about sports and I love watching sports. But aside from PTI, I have made myself a promise to only use ESPN for the latter. I’ll use ESPN.com for news and stay up to date with the goings on and scores. I’ll watch PTI because I enjoy the banter of two old friends who, at their hearts, are sports journalists and not rally men. I’ll watch Monday Night Football or a college game, but I’m done with all other ESPN programming. Enough is enough.
I don’t like being manipulated. Sports are interesting enough that you don’t need to manipulate anything. There are enough compelling characters to choose from that you don’t need to create new ones. I’m tired of angry old men, has-beens and never-weres, howling at the moon. I’m tried of hating people whose greatest crime is being mentioned every 2 seconds on SportsCenter.
I’ll miss the reasoned, intelligent discourse by people like Jay Bilas and Kirk Herbstreit. ESPN doesn’t always get it wrong when they hire former players to talk about they games they played, but my sanity was on the line. They are amazing at sucking you in, keeping you and not letting you go. It’s good business. But it’s bad for sports and it’s bad for me and it’s bad for you.
ESPN is the devil. Don’t believe me? Ask, Tim Tebow.