LaVar Ball appeared on First Take this morning, yelling over Stephen A. Smith. We posted on it, because it was a glorious train wreck, we like to rubber neck, and judging by the traffic numbers, so do lots of people. While our writers have spent far more time thinking about and writing about other things, it will easily be our highest-trafficked item of the day.
So here’s the thing with things like coverage of LaVar Ball’s statements and appearances. If the consuming public didn’t care, you wouldn’t see it. And the folks at ESPN, being the market leader in sports coverage, are grappling with the dueling interests of (a) interest in watching or hearing about LaVar Ball, whatever the underlying motivation, versus (b) whether they should use their platform to provide more exposure to the carnival barking.
Here’s SportsCenter anchor Dari Nowkhah:
And here was Scott Van Pelt the other night:
I understand the sentiment, and in fact feel some of it myself. That said, it’s also entertainment and LaVar Ball can be entertaining in a WWE manager kind of way. ESPN, in the past, has run into the ground things like Tim Tebow (this is 1/1,000th of that still ongoing phenomenon, how can we forget the celebration of his birthday across ESPN platforms?) and Jim Harbaugh has had his moments recently where every action gets dissected. ESPN does more and more wrestling stuff on the air. Why? Because people consume it in a large enough sub-group to move the numbers.
LaVar Ball makes some people angry. He makes some people laugh. He makes some people gawk. Some don’t care, but right now, the “don’t cares” are outnumbered in terms of watching and clicking.
And I’ll be honest, in terms of things that have been run into the ground, this is relatively harmless. No one — and I mean no one — takes Ball seriously about his beating Michael Jordan one-on-one. If that gets you worked up online, then it’s time to reassess life. He’s loud, and he says outrageous things.
What would ESPN be doing if not LaVar? I can’t wait to hear from Dana White and Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor about the latest attempt to drum up interest with false bravado over a fight that isn’t happening. Yeah, it’s not like you’re missing out on steak by having this hot dog, instead of some other turkeys. This meal will be done soon enough.