Aw, come on! I'm just kidding. It's not ESPN that ruins everything. It's oversaturation, a concept that's completely foreign to anyone at ESPN. Can we blame them for being completely oblivious here?
Oh, wait. We can? Then, yeah.
God ESPN sucks. From USA Today:
ESPN will formally announce Wednesday that it's going to training camp with James' Miami Heat, with its coverage likely to outdo anything it did on Brett Favre's annual summer soul-searching. Starting at the team's media day Monday and continuing when its training camp starts Tuesday at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., ESPN will erect a set and parachute in analysts Jalen Rose, Josh Elliott and Jon Barry and reporters including Rachel Nichols for continuous surveillance across ESPN platforms.
The parachute thing is a joke, I think. That'd actually be cool though, a something of a self-parody. But that'd require self-awareness that's clearly eluded ESPN for some time.
And clearly, they don't read their own ombudsman very often. This past July, Don Ohlmeyer explains why his network's handling of LeBron James' free agency was such a colossal disaster. Here's five points from that column that ESPN clearly ignored:
- "ESPN made some major mistakes handling the entire affair. In fact, in many ways, the network's decisions in airing the James' special -- and its justification for making them -- are a metaphor for what ails the media today."
- "Viewers resent having ESPN promotions shoved down their throats. On July 8, the network basically dedicated six straight hours to the James announcement -- nearly as much hoopla as surrounds football on Super Bowl Sunday."
- "As the hours wore on, it was impossible not to ponder: Did the news value of James' decision really merit such prolonged speculation, dissection, explanation, argumentation and analysis?"
- "...the regular "SportsCenter" viewers who came expecting to see highlights … were fed a nonstop diet of LeBron. There are other choices for sports news, and if viewer habits are broken too often, they'll go elsewhere."
- "ESPN owes it to its audience to avoid the ratings trap. It should set the bar high, not lower it."
In the wake of that disaster, it was hard not to dread the rise of King James and the Miami Heat. The whole experience, as perpetrated by ESPN and LeBron, colored my basketball analysis:
People will write thousands of words on Friday about whether the Wade-James-Bosh trio can coexist, but that's beside the point. Even if those guys work brilliantly, the situation is untenable in the long run.
I mean, that might be the most ignorant statement in history. But there's no way I was going to laud the potential of Miami's Superteam after that night. Not until a few weeks later did I realize this could actually be great for the NBA:
What we're seeing is players taking the "Miami Model" as a call to action. Where people like Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony take their destinies into their own hands, forming dynasties of their own.
As an NBA fan, would you rather have 10 good teams, or three-to-four great teams?
So I've talked myself into it. But that happened while ESPN went dark on Miami, returning its focus to Brett Favre and Tiger Woods and the Red Sox and Yankees and whatever else "moves the needle." Now, we're back to square one, with ESPN sending a cadre of commentators down to a remote military base that was specifically chosen by the Heat to avoid the spotlight.
Like ratings-crazed moths flocking to the Heat's flame, ESPN can't resist.
They don't do this with everything, and ESPN has a lot of stuff that sports fans love. But with the big stories, this is their biggest problem. It's like they're addicted to crappy, redundant coverage. They lack an off-switch.
And now I'm returned to my initial skepticism. Because in today's media, I'm not sure whether we can handle a star-studded championship team without getting browbeaten with every storyline. Every highlight, every win, every loss, every ZANY quote. Today's media could ruin all of it for us. And by "today's media" I mean... Well, which media organization is setting up camp outside of the training camp that's closed to all media?