Busy year for ESPN, right? It started off so ugly, with the screw-ups and apologies and later, the arrests … and then the ESPN Book came out and brought the positive back. This is a big week for ESPN, between Grantland making its debut on Wednesday, and the network making a move on the Olympics.
Here are four links from the weekend about the WWL or Evil Empire or whatever you want to call ESPN:
Let’s start with a very well-written take on ESPN and the book from the Wall Street Journal, with a random shot at PTI (at the end):
If there is a major failing in “Those Guys Have All the Fun,” it is that no one wants to ponder the full implications of this shift. …
By contrast, relatively little attention is given to the conflicts inherent in a network being the largest promoter of sports, the most powerful partner of sports leagues and the largest journalistic shop covering them. A curious reader might want to hear why the quantity and quality of coverage of such sports as soccer and hockey seems to vary depending on how deeply their parent leagues are partnered with the network. But to wrestle with such questions would require introspection from ESPN’s key players and a realistic appraisal of the integrity and quality of their product. You won’t find much of that here.
Why? Nobody’s probed that angle. Another a question was raised by the Washington Post this weekend – where’s the critical analysis from the authors who conduct a billion interviews with ESPN employees?:
This is essentially an oral history, with the authors contributing occasional commentary. So the book lacks a narrative voice to set the scene, describe the characters, pull the reader along. Authors are not just tape recorders with expense accounts. They need to analyze, criticize, validate their characters. Here, they’re often missing in action.
In non-ESPN book news, ESPN, as expected, is making a play for the Olympics this week, writes Ad Week:
Without Ebersol in the game, ESPN is widely seen as the network with the best shot at stealing Olympic gold. While network president George Bodenheimer has no designs on becoming the next Ebersol—the ESPN chief is all business where Ebersol is renowned for his personal narratives and weepy profiles of Olympians—a win in Lausanne would effectively sideline broadcast TV’s sports profile.
A ’roid-ripped, cash-generating machine, ESPN practically has a monopoly on big-time sports, boasting the rights to the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball. With its triumphant coverage of the 2010 World Cup, the network demonstrated it can handle a massive global event.
Others think FOX will win the bid.
And lastly, ESPN recently went after 7-on-7 high football tournaments that are suddenly the bane of college football. Problem: ESPN’s Mel Kiper was supporting the very organization that ESPN went after, according to Sports By Brooks. In the last week, ESPN has flip-flopped on whether or not Kiper was involved with the organization in question. Kiper has been in a pickle before at ESPN – last year, we brought to light his connection to Vinny Cerrato and the late agent Gary Wichard; Sports Illustrated plunged deeper six months later. I wonder if Todd McShay loves this news, since he’s ESPN’s Kiper-in-waiting.