After shutting off the various social media channels I follow throughout the day to actually get some non-sports blogging duties done, I popped open Twitter and was met with a flood of tweets about what is apparently the most important sports story of the day:
Skip Bayless’ high school basketball career.
The nadir of ESPN may finally have been reached.
Apparently a good portion of today’s edition of First Take was spent with Skip Bayless trying to explain away what Jalen Rose called him out for the other day. If you missed this story, lucky you.
The gist is that Skip Bayless made it sound like he was Rick Mount in high school when he actually averaged 1.4 points per game. Jalen Rose called him out for it. Then sports fans who are sick of Bayless’ schtick rejoiced by proclaiming Rose “kind of the diamond” and bringing him all the finest meats and cheeses from across the land.
This led to intense debate yesterday between esteemed media commenters like Dan Levy, Jimmy Traina, and Richard Deitsch, all of whose opinions I respect and none of whom should have their insight wasted on this most trivial and insignificant of “stories” even if the crux of their discussion centered not on the basketball exploits of Bayless but on how much time was being wasted discussing it in the first place – you know, kind of like of what I’m doing here.
And the debate apparently continues today, all thanks to the Worldwide Leader in Sports, which forces Skip Bayless down our throats, creates conversation about him by virtue of its massive reach, and then justifies more Bayless airtime by saying we want it.
No, you fools, we don’t.
Sports fans are just conditioned to watch ESPN and many have neither the time nor inclination to curate their sports media consumption further, so they trust your purported worldwide leadership to guide them in the right direction. Skip Bayless is “in demand” because you create the demand ESPN. And it annoys the hell out of me, because ESPN used to be such a great, respected, engaging network.
Now ESPN is reduced to wasting air time on Skip Bayless’ high school career.
Oh, and – allegedly – badgering Masters champion Bubba Watson so much that he is compelled to change his telephone number.
Yep. That was allegedly the work of Mike & Mike, America’s preeminent morning sports show, which has this lofty status simply because, again, ESPN makes it so. Seriously. Not one sports fan that I have ever had a serious conversation with has said they like Mike & Mike. Like me, they simply tolerate it because Mike & Mike are a) so easily accessible and b) usually get the best and most timely guests when there is something worthwhile of discussion.
Hmm…maybe that’s why they were allegedly so persistent in badgering Watson. They know getting the Masters champion on for an interview is the only reason people will listen.
Bubba went on to say that the last straw to motivate him to finally change his number came from a radio show that he wouldn’t name. After arriving home after 3 AM he said he received 40 calls at 6 AM from this radio show and that was enough to cause him to make the change.
Russello joked that he hoped it wasn’t “Mike & Mike” and Bubba indicated that it was, but he didn’t want to “call you guys (ESPN) out”.
I obviously can’t confirm this, because I’m just a peon sports blogger with a day job, but the details make sense and are being passed along by sites I respect, so I am passing them along to you.
It all adds up to what has to be one of the most sad and pathetic days in ESPN history.
I’d feel bad, even a little embarrassed for the Worldwide Leader, but they’ve brought this on themselves by becoming more of a marketing network than an actual sports network. Outside of live sporting events that cannot be viewed elsewhere, the 30 for 30 series, Outside The Lines, and the occasional breaking story, I rarely find a good reason to watch ESPN anymore. And I love sports. That’s said.
This rant explains why it is so.
Update: A reader, and one of my favorite people on Twitter to discuss sports with @Eddie8374, brought up a good point, so I want to clarify what I am saying about Skip Bayless in this post.
Bayless obviously has had a long career in the media, and he has indeed cultivated his current image carefully over the years all while apparently being a nice guy off camera from everything I’ve heard. ESPN did not make Bayless famous. However, they have shot him into another stratosphere of visibility and have allowed the current self-cultivated caricature of Bayless to have one of the loudest voices in sports, regardless of if it’s well-informed or reasonable (which it’s often not).
That’s my issue.
Update: Also, I was perhaps a bit harsh on Mike & Mike above, as several readers have let me know, including in the comment section. Clearly the show has many fans, and now I know that even some of my friends are among their fans as well.