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Tag:ESPN
Posted on: July 28, 2008 1:10 pm
 

You into the Brett Favre Saga? Me Neither.

Maybe I am alone; maybe I am out of touch; maybe I am just missing something. No matter what, I do not think it's a bad thing.

When I woke up this morning, I made my normal voyage over to ESPN.com. I don't like ESPN, never have and never will, but I need to make the trip in order to keep the proverbial enemy closer.

And there I see it.

A tag-line that seems as foreign to me as Louisiana electoral procedure. A tag-line that I would have hoped would be considered a cold-blooded lie. A tag-line so incomprehensible I was not sure whether to be afraid or laugh.

“Are you on Brett Favre watch? Us, too, so here's the latest from him:”

ESPN asked me, did not wait for my response, and told me anyway what was going on.

The network told me that he had not gone to camp, yet. That he hadn't been traded, yet. That he hadn't sent in his letter of reinstatement, yet.

Basically, ESPN told me that Brett Favre's situation is exactly the same as it was three hours after he retired.

And people care about this?

I look down the right side of the page to view the other, so-called secondary headlines. These are things that news status quo reports about Brett Favre trump, apparently.

Gold medal-winning gymnast Paul Hamm withdraws from Olympic games.

Goose Gossage inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Rafael Nadal wins the Rogers Masters to close in on Roger Federer's top ranking.

And those are just the news reports that interest me.

Champions were crowned in the Arena Football League, Tour de France, and World Cup of beach soccer. An unheralded golfer came back to beat John Cook to win the Senior Open Championship. A feature-length article about a player traded to the Harlem Globetrotters is almost impossible to find.

All of these, each and every one of them, clearly news, and each and every one of them is trumped by nothing.

And I'm supposed to believe that I'm the only person who does not care?

I am jonesing for football season unlike anything else, but this was never what I wanted. I never wanted a 24-hour-a-day media frenzy into each action Brett Favre has taken. Why would I? What am I learning? What do I get out of it?

Yet apparently, this is what everyone wants, at least according to ESPN.

Yes, ESPN thinks everyone wants to know everything Brett Favre, well, hasn't changed, from the last update. We apparently want to know every team that he hasn't been traded to, whether it is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Jets, or whomever. Of course, we also want to know the thoughts of all the players on all of these teams that Brett Favre has not been traded to.

Gene Wojciechowski, never one to shy away from the easy, obvious argument, claims that nothing has happened because Green Bay is in a no-win situation. The Packers don't want to trade him to an NFC North team or wave him to where he signs with an NFC North team, but they also don't want to alienate Aaron Rodgers further. They also owe Favre at the very least the ability to play somewhere if he wants to play.

And that's all fine and dandy.

But we knew that four months ago.

We knew four months ago; we knew in the middle of his retirement speech when he said, “I still can play” and just a minute later reaffirming that with, “I know I can play;” we knew when he threw that interception in overtime against the New York Giants in the NFC Championship that Brett Favre would be back in 2008, even if it was not with the Green Bay Packers.

And yet, somehow, this entire saga in which nothing has happened is news? I don't get it.

When Brett Favre gets traded, that is news.

When Brett Favre gets waived, that is news.

When Brett Favre is reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell, that is news.

When Brett Favre reports to training camp, any training camp anywhere, that is news.

But when Brett Favre answers his telephone, when he considers doing something he's been considering for five months, when he fills out a form that means nothing until sent, that is news? I really just don't get it.

Maybe I am alone when I think ESPN is being just a tad bit presumptive when it assumes we are all hooked on the Brett Favre watch, stalking his every movement like only ESPN knows how.

Or maybe I am just out of touch.

But I'd like to think that I'm not. I'd like to think that there are some slightly more significant things going on in the world of sports.

I'd like to think Bruce Vaughan's birdie on the first playoff hole of the Senior Open Championship is a better story. It's a story that signifies that a career journeyman who never finished better than a tie for 22nd in one year on the PGA Tour, who previously only won two minor-league tournaments in his life, can still compete with and defeat someone who won 11 PGA Tour events in a major championship.

Isn't that what we want to hear?

There are definitely more riveting, more charismatic and heartwarming stories out there, even if ESPN is too caught up in the nothingness to let you know what is happening.
Posted on: June 15, 2008 1:32 am
 

Hypocrisy in Bristol

Few things in sports go hand-in-hand as well as ESPN and hypocrisy.

Sure, there are the high-profiled bashings of spring college football two days before ESPN decides to send Gameday to the University of Florida's spring game. And then there is ESPN's talk of high journalistic standards, the same standards that lead one of its primary writers to announce that Les Miles had accepted the head coaching position at the University of Michigan just an hour before he publicly announced that he had not taken the job.

But this story has been ignored, brushed to the side, because ESPN never wanted it to see the light of day.

On February 29, Save Oregon Wrestling (SOW) purchased 11 half-minute time slots on ESPNU and one on ESPN for broadcast during the 2008 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in St. Louis. Just one day before the event was set to begin, ESPN turned back the advertisements, claiming that the network did not air “advertising that consists of, in whole or in part, political advocacy or issue-oriented advertising.” SOW was reimbursed in full.

ESPN, it should be noted, had a backlog of advertisers who wanted to buy airtime that was already sold to various groups, including SOW.

SOW was founded not shortly after the University of Oregon decided that it would drop wrestling after the 2007-2008 school year, a decision that was made July 13, 2007. It dropped wrestling to make way to add baseball, as well as to make competitive cheerleading a scholarship sport.

At the time, Oregon was the only full PAC-10 member without a baseball team and one of only four with a wrestling program.

Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny made the decision, claiming that the decision was his and not ordered by anyone else in the department.

“I felt it was my responsibility to examine all facets of the athletics department and determine how we could improve its operation and fiscal efficiency,” he wrote in a release to the media the morning of the decision. “The changing landscape of collegiate athletics over the past decades has influenced me to come to the conclusion that these changes will be in the best interest of the future of the university."

Kilkenny, it must be noted, was a former booster of the university who helped finance the buyout of his predecessor. He also has no college degree, the only Division I athletic director at any school who does not have this basic requirement.

He dropped the program and claimed that Title IX was at issue, a stance that he would later retract.

Additionally, financial problems certainly are not the problem. Baseball costs more than $1 million annually to field a program; wrestling is about $700,000. Furthermore, the university will have to pay more money for scholarships for competitive cheer.

All this is not to mention the money that Nike gives the department.

Finally, SOW raised more than $2 million, enough to fund the team for three years while it continued to raise its goal of $6 million, enough to build a stand-alone facility for wrestling. Yet Kilkenny wouldn't budge, deciding instead to cut wrestling and lie to the student-athletes about the motive behind cutting wrestling.

It's not financial. He is adding a sport that costs much more and adding scholarships to another sport.

And it is not Title IX. The department has come out and shown that it was in complete compliance with Title IX and adding a sport wouldn't have affected that.

Then what is it?

But the real problem is ESPN's hypocrisy.

ESPN had a chance to put this story on the front page, to let the world know about what the Oregon athletic department was doing, but it chose not to. Investigative journalism into a real issue in one operation of sports is not ESPN's way.

Sure, it will investigate heckling in Little League Baseball, but it won't investigate the disorganization of an athletic department.

Instead, it turns down the advertisements and hides behind a policy that it seems to only enforce when it wants to.

ESPN has no problem airing “issue-oriented advertisements” that it agrees with, such as a campaign to keep children away from steroids. Those commercials have been running left and right on ESPN for the past couple of weeks. Is that not, at least in part, issue-oriented?

No, it is issue-oriented, but it is one that ESPN agrees with. ESPN has invested itself in a campaign against steroids and therefore it has no hesitation airing advertisements that talk against steroids.

But a campaign against lying to student-athletes? But a campaign against the manipulation of the population of an entire state because a booster wants baseball and doesn't want his school to support wrestling?

Never. That's not ESPN's way.

So here we are now, three months later, and these wrestlers are suing the university, a case they might very well win because the university did not engage in good-faith negotiations with the program, and it is a non-story. It is a non-story because ESPN wants it as such. ESPN wants every story to be about steroids, not wrestling.

ESPN's policy is hypocritical and it probably knows it. The executives aren't stupid.

They know that steroids are an issue, and yet they chose to air advertisements on the subject. Just the same, they chose not to air advertisements aimed to save a wrestling program.

The policy looks good, but ESPN enforces it only against issues it does not want to turn into a story.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com