Wednesday, February 28, 2007

When is Enough Enough with ESPN?

Admittedly, it was something I had a little extra interest in that drove me over the edge with ESPN, but finally I reached my limit this morning. Why? Yesterday, ESPN devoted its online front page ALL DAY to the "controversy" over whether the Spurs or Mavs was the best team in the NBA, based on John Hollinger concocting some formula that from what I gather places extra emphasis on point differential in the last 10 games. Based on that, he had the Spurs as the best team in the league. This in spite of them being 9 games behind Dallas and 5 behind the Suns, and 9-8 against the league's other elite teams, while Dallas is 11-4 (not to mention 34-2 in its last 36). But, it's not even necessarily the logic that bothered me, it's the fact they hyped it as if with close to 30 games left in the season anyway actually cares, and based on the absurdity of the math, it's something worth such coverage. Even San Antonio agrees it's foolish (http://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/columnists/bharvey/stories/MYSA022707.01D.COL.BKNharvey.spurs.17cf111.html) But what made it all the more ridiculous is last night, Dallas beat a hapless Minnesota team by 26, and suddenly the Mavs are #1 in Hollinger's rankings. Does that mean the "controversy" is over, or does that mean readers should check in every morning if they really want to know who's best in the NBA. Because the sole goal is to drive readership.

Now obviously, the dispute itself is irrelevant, since the playoffs start in less than two months and that'll be the ultimate barometer. But the relentless self promotion of ESPN only continues. I forget who cued me to the fact that, last Sunday, in spite of a great Kobe/Lebron showdown, ESPN led off the first 10 minutes with some inconsequential Nascar race. Why? Not because it was a significant race, but because ESPN had broadcast it. The list goes on and on (e.g., X Games).

I don't expect ESPN not to advertise what it does, but has it not become another brand now like Johnson & Johnson or Proctor Gamble that merely is out to market all of its products and, above all else, increase its profits? That would be great, except for one problem, isn't it supposed to be part of the "objective" media? I don't pretend to be naive, and even something like them muting the boos directed at Bush 41 in New Orleans last fall was more silly than anything, but when you read ESPN now, do you not think that they're presenting almost entirely based on marketing? I've noticed Bill Simmons in the last year has been increasingly less subtle in alluding to this fact.

5 comments:

vwz said...

My nightly watching of ESPN Sportscenter has dramatically decreased - which is partly attributable to their shameless self promotion; and partly attributable to that I'm not in school any more...

But now I rely on Yahoo! sports for my sports news... Sort of the dukeupdate to dbr type of deal: news without the slanted coverage... or, for example, DudeSpin to Deadspin... however you want to look at it.

The Franchise said...

Actually Joel, it was over at Kane's blog that the whole NASCAR vs. Cavs-Lakers thing started. While I agree with you that it is suspicious that ESPN shows a lot more NASCAR and a lot less NHL since their broadcast situations with regards to those two sports have changed (and look for LOTS more Arena Football this year!), I still don't think that was a good example.

For one thing, ESPN broadcasts NASCAR and the NBA, so I'm not sure how that creates a conflict of interest. Also, while I can't find the TV ratings anywhere online, I'm sure more people were tuned into the Gatorade Duels than the Cavs-Lakers game, or any other sporting event on that particular Friday. That makes a pretty compelling case that it should have been the lead on SportsCenter, ESPN's hijinks notwithstanding...

Head Dude said...

I was wondering what first prompted me. I guess all roads lead to Kane's blog.
There may be some truth in Nascar, but there's no basis for X-Games, WSOP, etc. appearing on SportsCenter.
I'll admit though, espn.com is like an addiction -- it's almost impossible to quit.

The Franchise said...

Indeed, the far scarier things are the ones ESPN actually owns, like the X-Games and, now, Arena Football. Those are conflicts of interest of the highest order when they lead off SportsCenter.

I would love for some historian to go back and find out exactly when ESPN went from covering the world of sports to manufacturing their own stories. Lord knows they have become increasingly enamored of the "entertainment" part of their name over the last few years...

Grizzly said...

A friend of mine pointed out something similar. How ESPN both ranks college recruits and also evaluates which colleges had the best recruiting classes based on their own rankings. Of course, USC and Texas are always near the top because those are the teams that show up on ABC all the time.

But they do like to drum up their own controversy, much like they did with the Amaechi book.

And I'm always glad when blog inspires such passionate posts involving Dallas basketball.