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Thursday, July 8, 2010

ESPN Officially in Bed with Lebron James, Athletes

Ripping Lebron James for the disgusting display that has been taking place on ESPN for the last two days is almost too easy. I’ve been telling people for a while now that he’s overrated, and he is. Now he has the unmitigated gall of calling the ever-growing sports programming monopoly and asking for an hour of prime time to announce where he is going as a free agent.

It’s disgusting, sickening, horrifying, asinine, and on and on and on.

It’s also ESPN’s fault.

No, I’m not letting James off the hook. He is now the poster child for what is wrong with professional sports. He’s never won a damn thing, including not a single game in the NBA Finals. But because the media, mostly ESPN, has arbitrarily decided he’s the best player in basketball – he’s not, by the way – he thinks he deserves an hour-long special just to sign a free agent contract.

Fine. He’s an egotistical jackass the likes of which will . . . I’d like to say “never be seen again,” but we all know better. Odds are the biggest free agent, as determined by the monopoly of ESPN, will have a special every year now.

But ESPN, henceforth known as the Monopoly, is the real culprit here. If the executives at the Monopoly even knew what integrity meant, the only reason that the phone call from James’ representatives lasts for two seconds after they re-explain their idiotic proposal because the execs couldn’t believe their ears is because they were laughing too hard to slam down the phone.

Instead they couldn’t wait to accommodate the crownless “king.”

Laugh it off as “just sports” if you will, but this is a very real problem.

This is the continuation of society becoming more and more like George Orwell’s 1984. People already watch Fox News as though the network isn’t merely an extension of the Republican party. Fox is certainly a bigger societal problem, but the Monopoly is making the problem acceptable.

I would love to say I’m going to boycott the Monopoly. Of course I realize it would have zero effect, but the real problem is that there is simply no alternative. As a sports fan, it is impossible not to pay attention to the Monopoly without giving up any hope of following sports. Local networks give sports about two minutes in their broadcasts. Comcast is better, but they don’t really offer a national perspective. Neither do newspapers, which are dying a slow death anyway.

So, the Monopoly is becoming the only real source of sports news. But they really aren’t a news outlet any more, regardless of the fact that they named one of their many useless channels Monopoly News. They are sports entertainment.

They created the ESPYs, an absurd awards show for athletes. We used to call them championships. For years the Monopoly has had a pointless advertising campaign in which superstar athletes often pretend to work at the network, which mostly only runs on the network.

Imagine President Obama yukking it up on a CNN promo. Fox might spontaneously self-combust.

Michael Wilbon, a guy held up as a great sports journalist for the Washington Post and constant presence on the Monopoly, is interviewing James on the show tonight. Yet just 4 1/2 hours before the show, on his regular show for the Monopoly, he claimed to have no idea where James was going. In fact, not one Monopoly reporter – a group that practically makes up stories to “break” – will say anything except that James is leaning toward Miami. In fact, no reporter has come close to saying he’s absolutely going to X city.

Some even have the nerve to suggest that James doesn’t know yet. Even James isn’t dumb enough to create this charade before he decided where to go.

If a Monopoly reporter got a scoop on where James is going, does anybody think it would reach the air before 9 PM tonight? Didn’t think so. What if James had a DUI last night? There’s no reason to believe he did, but the question needs to be asked if it would have been reported. Sadly, it probably would have been reported to raise interest in the show.

I haven’t watched the Monopoly for the entire day, but I’ve heard enough, including their national morning radio show. A network that literally survives on its reporters incessantly offering opinions doesn’t seem to have had a single extended discussion on whether or not the network is crossing a line with James.

Their only defense could be that there’s nothing to discuss – obviously the network has crossed a line. The bar of credibility is already low at the Monopoly, and they are getting way, way under it. No one who ever works at ESPN can claim credibility again. (They deserved to be named in that sentence.)

But it’s “only sports” so only a few people are really taking this seriously. The problem is that we have a tendency to get comfortable with a concept in one area of our lives and let it bleed into others. This is especially true of things that originate in the world of athletics in our sports crazed society.

At least Fox News can blame someone else if they ever start hiring former Republican vice presidential candidates.

Oh, wait. They already did.

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