Thursday, February 26, 2009

ESPN, and the fans who love to hate them

Okay, let's get something straight right off the bat -- ESPN (the self-proclaimed world wide leader in sports) doesn't like small market teams, and fans of those teams don't like ESPN. Why? Well, you're more likely to hear a story about Kobe, LeBron, the Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys twice before you even hear them mention the final score of the game your favorite team played last night in. There's really more money to make by appeasing the larger markets than they would get by (and I'm dating myself here), talking about an exciting 11 inning game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Montreal Expos. No one cares about that, we need to hear about the color and abnormal nitrogen content of Jeter's piss.

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Thankfully, we have the Internet -- and no longer need big sports shows to tell us who won or who lost. Unfortunately, the liberation we (the multitude of fans who love teams that the big networks hate) should feel fails to exist in reality. As big as the Internet is, it's not immune to corporate domination. Take me for example, I've sworn off watching Sportcenter because of their decision (which is a logical financial move on their part) to shun giving major coverage to obscure, esoteric teams. I don't need to watch them spin a Jazz win into the other team losing the game, and then make excuse for that team --  okay, so the Lakers were tired, but the Jazz were playing without Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko and Brevin Knight -- obvious advantage to the Jazz there! Yet, my browser homepage (over the course of over a decade, and several computers) continues to be the NBA homepage.

Why do I even go there? It's more a self preservation based strategy really, as is a lot more user friendly than the labyrinthine navigation needed in order to actually get what you want out of the Official NBA Website. With a few clicks I can view, sort and analyze all the data from last nights games, or the last 5 years worth. The fact is that while they do a poor job of sharing the spotlight on the air, could be really great for the fans of all teams. Yet, they do an equally poor job over "the Internets".

Their website is a storehouse of just the information any fan needs in order to construct their own opinions, less the media biases that we all accuse them of having. [Just look at the comments section of any article that says something . . . ESPN then becomes a pro-Lakers, anti-Lakers, pro-Kobe, anti-Kobe, pro-LeBron, anti-LeBron, pro-Celtics, anti-whatever propaganda machine -- according to us, the unwashed masses of sports fans.] Aside from any perceived real (or imagined) biases fans see, some of their "experts" aren't "expert" enough. But that's not even the worst part of's Internet presence.

The worst part is that we fans -- who love ESPN or hate them -- flock to their webpage like sheep, and build their reporting and analysis up so much (in our own minds, perceiving that their statements carry a greater weight of authority over other statements over the 'net) as the antecedent to getting upset about those very same reports and analysis. In effect, we champion them with one action, only to vilify them with another. No one would care if someone with no more a sports authority than you said something bad (or even worse, didn't say anything at all!) about your team. Our threat assessment alarm only goes off when it comes from people who 'are paid to know their stuff'.

I don't get upset if Charlie Rosen writes something inherently flawed. I don't go into "monkey crapping into his hand, only so he has something to throw" mode when someone at work thinks differently about the Lions draft strategy than I do. Thus, logically, I should not care about what is posted at . . . nor should anyone. Yet, hundreds of people everyday go into monkey poop mode (albeit with their keyboards, not their actual poop) on any opinion piece they put up. Sports fans, as passionate, emotional people with feverent loyalty, cannot really be asked to be sterile robots -- especially not when 'those d-bags over at ESPN are totally hatin' on ______ (your favorite team here), ______ (author of article uploaded onto is such a d-bag!!!'

Let's just look at one of the most hotly contested regular features: Marc Stein's Weekly NBA Power Rankings. Back in the day when Stein only used to write the occasional opinion piece on the website I did not go crazy. He appeared to favor some teams over others and while I did not agree with all of his opinions, he did bring something to the table as a sports writer. That was then. Today he is like a God, and his weekly pronouncements cause reverence and hysteria amongst all his believers.

[EPIC TANGENT ALERT!!!] Can you imagine if this was actually the case -- if God had His own Power Rankings each week? The posts we'd see on message boards would be insane:

  • Christians knock off Jews as God's people this week! Numbah 1 babeey!!11! [Xx_LaMb_Of_GoD_xX]
    • Moses is injured, we're not worried [FeartheZohan]
      • Whatev, Jesus was nailed to a cross, k thnx bai [CanIhasSalvationplz?]
  • Wicca beats Voodoo, Rasta an Shinto on road, and goes down 2 spots? Hata!!! [WynndrWymyn]
    • Wiccans underrated! [Magic Circle Sister]
      • Wicca hasn't even made the playoffs since the dark ages, ur aal dumb [Stan666]
    • Ay, whaut be dis ting ye sayin, bway? Wicca bee lucky dis week, 'seen? [RudeBoy420]
  • ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz [Cth007h00]
    • My head asplode [EmilyG]
  • Atheism always last each week? WTF? [NoGod1999]
    • Hey, why doesn't anyone respond? [NoGod1999]
      • Hello? [NoGod1999]
        • Anyone? [NoGod1999]
          • .....god? [NoGod1999]
  • God's rankings sux! Stupid Middle East Coast Bias, boo! [Dr.Zeus]
    • Dharmic faiths more fulfilling than Abrahamic? [LittleBuddah5]
      • In this life, or the next? [I_am_Ganesh!!!]
    • +1 [Quetzoquatl4MVP]
    • +1 [Quetzoquatl4MVP]
      • Stopid servers, sry for dbl post [Quetzoquatl4MVP]
    • +1 [Quetzoquatl4MVP]
      • lolz, u mean trippple post [ODiN>>>L0Ki]
        • heh heh heh [Quetzoquatl4MVP]
    • whatever, it's all rigged [Xenuluvr88]
      • Shuttup elroy [72Virgins4me]
        • Fine, believe what you believe, let me believe what I do [Xenuluvr88]
        • Hey you *&%$#@! [TeeCruise] -- post pending deletion
  • post deleted by administrator
    • That's it! I am going to sue you in England! [TeeCruise] -- post pending deletion


Such is the outcry every week when Stein submits his Power Rankings -- and it's slightly less funny to read what people write. And while Stein isn't God, the waves made by his weekly Power Rankings cause ripples all over the Internet. Sports Illustrated (a corporate RIVAL of ESPN) has a forum on their servers, yet on that server people who talk sports have message board throwdowns about Stein's rankings. SI has their own power poll, by the way, but the fans of SI are talking about ESPN's rankings . . . on SI's message board. Even The Onion, probably the most consistently funny (and honest) satirical view of our modern society, mentioned Stein's Power Rankings a while back. Would we care if Stein's rankings did not come from the self-styled "World Wide Leader", and thus, were bereft of this absolute authoritarian weight? Most likely no, because you don't see people go Apeshit "monkey poop mode" over the weekly rankings over at BallDon'tLie, or RealGM . . . well, they do, but not to the same level.

Ultimately, it is the fact that they style themselves as the WWL that draws us to them. Some agree, some disagree . . . and random people dedicate time to discussing them (good things and bad things), validating those people who feel like no press is bad press. I'm a sports fan. I hate ESPN. I really do love to hate them, and I feel justified in doing so as a fanatic of a small market sports team . . . but does it even matter to the execs over at ESPN? If they surfed their way over here they'd see "ESPN", "" and the word "love" about a dozen times and give each other raises, never really stopping to read it.

Now if you excuse me, I have to go check out their webpage to see if anything new is up . . . for me to go all Angry Dad over.



UtesFan89 said...

That 'epic tangent' was great!

Oh, and as for the Lions... who do you think they should take #1?

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