Thursday, August 04, 2005

Ah the good old days...(aren't I too young for this?)

What happened to ESPN?

I remember waking up to get ready for high school in the early to mid ‘90s, and having my routine of shit, shower, and cereal broken up nicely by the wit and smarm of then ESPN Sports Center anchor, Craig Kilborn. Perhaps on Tuesday I’d awakened by the subtle and effective humor of the seasoned tag-team of Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick. At the very least, I could rely on a good ‘cast from Charlie Steiner and Mike Tirico. Roy Firestone and Dick Schapp were there to provide a mature and guided take on the sports issues of the day, and “catch” phrases were not strung together like a messy magazine-cut ransom note. The “reality” shows on TV were still only on MTV, and no-talent hacks who didn’t deserve to sit with real journalists were like me; sitting at home and enjoying professionals do what they did best: inform and entertain. These were times when ESPN was fast on the rise, but it wasn’t so aware of its pop-culture significance that it had become a parody of itself.

Instead, today, I get to wait patiently for Kenny Mayne to show up and lend his sardonic voice to a special segment about combative college mascots or perhaps an in-depth report on Olympic curling. Those are the high points. They arrive about once every two months.

For every minute of Sports Center, there is a wannabe who will comb their thesaurus or the lyrics of a Top 40 hit to have that zinger that will set them apart from every other contestant on ESPN’s “Dream Job.” There will be guys like Fred Davis who are consummate professionals that are being pushed either by producers or from their own insecurity to force creativity. It’s not that Stuart Scott isn’t talented. He is. It’s just that far too many think that they can trot out a one trick pony phrase and suddenly be at the forefront of sports journalism. That creates a backlog of college kids or sports anchors in TV market 120 stations that grew up watching ESPN who do less homework on the sports they need to cover, and more on the personality they feel they have to cultivate to have a successful career. They become milquetoast, egocentric pawns who believe that their own celebrity (however minor it actually is) has come to equal that of the athletes they report on. The writing gets sloppy, the delivery becomes mundane, and the overall quality of the “product” erodes.

I don’t blame Olbermann or Kilborn or Steiner for leaving. I can’t say that I’d be revved up to live in Bristol, either. It’s just difficult for me to imagine how people behind the scenes who love sports can fall in love with the idea of a once trenchant institution becoming as predictable as an episode of “Full House.” Here’s to the egocentric, solipsistic views of Mike Greenberg, the banal misogyny of Skip Bayless’s meanderings, and the bland pandering of Jay Crawford; it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.


At 8:14 AM, August 04, 2005, Blogger lbotp said...

olbermann is back ... on the radio. tune into the dan patrick show tomorrow. (I listen to the DPS a lot.)

At 8:20 AM, August 04, 2005, Blogger greymatter said...

Thanks for the info! Much obliged :-)

At 12:12 PM, August 04, 2005, Blogger Angry Jolietan said...

Stephen A. Smith? Quite Frankly...

When ESPN hired Jim Rome, and gave Jay Mohr his own disastrous show, I wondered what Bristol was doing.


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