Recycling ESPN’s Garbage: Media Coverage in Sports

How many times have you been in a scenario like this? You’re watching the 11 p.m. SportsCenter while eating delicious Slices’ hot wings when a BREAKING NEWS sign flashes and interrupts the broadcast. You drop your wings out of your hands, covering your pants with scalding orange goo as you anxiously await the report.

“Terrell Owens mildly sprains ankle and will miss one week of voluntary workouts.”

WHAT? You’re left dumbfounded as you scream with sheer pain, trying to cure your second degree burns with Shaq’s Icy Hot patch. “Why should I care,” you say to yourself? You shouldn’t, but ESPN is going to make you care because the Worldwide Leader is going to send Rachel Nichols and her fake Ariel the Mermaid hairdo to Buffalo as she gives you reports about Owens eating at Dave and Buster’s with a protective boot. The next afternoon, you will see Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless on ESPN First Take screaming at each other like jilted lovers about Owens. Then the issue will be presented to super-annoying Jay Mariotti and friends on Around the Horn, Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon on PTI and another cast of characters on the following day’s SportsCenter. Repeat ad nauseum, with hourly updates on his ankle until he is back working out.

I could have plugged in a litany of past stories into T.O.’s spot, and it would have applied to the sports media’s (most specifically ESPN’s) history of making mountains out of mole hills and subsequently recycling that news story for days at a time. Even if a story is a big deal, like Alex Rodriguez acknowledging that he used steroids, the recycling only gets worse. Hell, I could write a book based on ESPN’s slobbering love affair, to quote Bernard Goldberg, with Owens, Rodriguez and Brett Favre alone.

However, ESPN is definitely not the only culprit, as the latest fake story du jour can attest to. Lately, some people are up in ire over the fact that the new Yankee Stadium was host to 20 home runs during a four-game series between the Indians and the Yankees last week. Obscene amount of homers? Yes. Emblematic of a larger problem? Let’s wait and see shall we? Right now I am watching Mike Francesa, the leading New York sports radio personality, talk with Sports Illustrated sportswriter Jon Heyman on the YES Network about how this is a major issue as they reference wind tunnel studies done in the South Bronx. I for one wonder if they merely convinced themselves that there was a problem in order to fill up more air time. Francesa has to speak for five and a half hours on a daily basis, and that’s pretty hard to do sometimes when both the Mets and Yankees are coming off of off-days and the local NBA teams have been put to bed for the summer. Saying that the Yankee Stadium home run binge isn’t an issue won’t help his cause; trying to create a problem will.

Yes, it’s fantastic to have an array of sports coverage on television, radio and online, but it becomes a problem when people make something out of nothing and when the quality of strict reporting of sports news becomes severely diluted. This is in direct correlation with the quantity of sports coverage, which has multiplied infinitely within the last 10-15 years. Sports conglomerates need to fill in the hours, so they count the ways to do so, hurting everyone in the process. Whose fault is it? Maybe it’s Disney, who changed the format of ESPN and ABC and changed the focus to more entertainment-based news, with a lot of flash and sizzle with little substance. Maybe it’s the brash on-air personalities, who loudly spout the latest recycled news. Maybe it’s us. ESPN wouldn’t be selling us the same old thing if we weren’t buying it. Then again, ESPN has a monopoly on sports news, so I suppose we don’t have a choice. Maybe it’s Ted Turner, who created a 24-hour news network that ESPN emulates to a T. My vote is E for All of the Above, and once again, sports fans lose.