I know what you’re thinking. It’s nothing new to see a sports blogger bash ESPN but there are definitely a few things I need to get off of my chest and quite possibly there are some things you haven’t heard yet. As I’ve stated in the previous posts of this series, these are things which I believe are slowly but surely ruining the NFL experience for those of us diehard fans. The ones that can’t get enough NFL coverage, analysis, and talk all year long. You’d think that the World Wide Leader would be the ultimate place for a fan to quench their thirst on a regular basis however as the years has gone by the coverage and integrity of the network has definitely been on the decline. Here are just a few examples to prove my point.
ESPN began the NFL coverage that most resembles what we know today back in the late 1980’s with shows like NFL Gameday and NFL Primetime. It was then when we were all introduced to Chris Berman as the voice of sports coverage. It’s too easy to bag on Berman for being annoying, repetitive, and just tired. My biggest gripe with ESPN is the fact that although they’ve covered the NFL for the majority of my lifetime, yet they proceed as if I haven’t learned a thing all these years. ESPN would prefer it if all of us NFL fans just stayed dumb, so we’d continue to find their coverage entertaining.
Each year the NFL coverage on ESPN grows, the more retired or former players join the staff as “analysts”. These guys probably are single handedly ruining it for me. I should say the majority of them are former players and not necessarily “retired” players. I’m sure they officially filed retirement paperwork with the league at some point but most of them were informed of their retirement in the form of not receiving call backs from any of the 32 teams once they were released from whatever team they played for last. They’re working there because they needed the job and they passed the screen test. They may or may not have the educational background necesary, but they look good on camera and don’t piss off the current talent.
Take Trent Dilfer for example. Dilfer is one of the most highly regarded “analysts” on ESPN and is featured on Monday Night Countdown as well as most of the other NFL coverage-related shows the network offers when he’s called upon to give his expert opinions. Trent Dilfer did not retire from the NFL; Trent Dilfer was not picked up by another team after his last season with the 49ers in 2007. Dilfer started 6 games that season and had 7 TD’s with 12 INT’s. In fact in Dilfer’s 13 year career in the NFL he only ever averaged more touchdowns than interceptions 4 times. Dilfer said he retired after tearing his Achilles’ Tendon playing basketball with his wife, but come on. Dilfer is most notably known for being quite possibly the worst quarterback to ever have won the Super Bowl when he won with the Ravens in his one and only season with them in 2000. If not for ESPN falling in love with the way he “breaks down the game” Dilfer would be the answer to a trivia question and nothing more. In just this past season Dilfer explained that NFL fans were having their intelligence insulted when it came to the disaster that was the replacement refs and later on we were all “declining in intelligence” when it came to the incident in Kansas City where fans reportedly cheered an injury of quarterback Matt Cassel. Dilfer’s main job at ESPN seems to be to review game tape in whatever medieval vault they’re always talking about and give obvious comments about what already transpired in games in order to make vague and nonspecific predictions towards games that haven’t happened yet. And we’re supposed to eat it up without any hesitation. The key is, if you haven’t been paying attention to the NFL in the past 25 years and have picked up a few things yourself, you’d be much more amazed with the crap that comes out of his mouth than the average diehard fan.
Speaking of declining intelligence, there can’t be a post written in regards to the dilapidated draw to ESPN without mentioning the train wreck that has been ESPN’s Tim Tebow coverage. If there can be anything worse than the way the Jets utilized Tebow in their Wild Cat packages, it was ESPN’s coverage of the polarizing backup quarterback. Naturally, ESPN fell in love with Tebow when he was at UF. He had an amazing career there, and was quite entertaining to watch if you love college football. Unnaturally, ESPN decided to follow Tebow’s journey to the NFL draft, in spite of the fact that most of their own experts declared him unfit to play quarterback at the professional level before his collegiate career had even ended. We all know the story and the infamy that was his first season in Denver. We don’t need to relive that. Tebow was sent to New York and ESPN drooled all over themselves trying to cover every second of his time there as not even the official backup quarterback and using the fact that New York is such a high profile media market to excuse their ridiculous coverage. I often heard radio show hosts complain about the fact that they had to talk about Tebow as much as they did but yet say that because he was in New York he drew so much attention so they had to. Really? Who were the ones calling up ESPN to ask them to cover Tebow to a nauseating level? I find it hard to believe that ESPN’s coverage of Tebow was actually in response to the demand for Tebow coverage from fans. I find it especially hard to believe considering the fact that due to former ESPN employee’s giving interviews leaking the truth that production meetings often had instructions from the higher ups to work Tim Tebow into any and all conversations on the various programs.
There’s no bashing on the Tim Tebow coverage without mentioning Skip Bayless, quite possibly the most prime example that ESPN is more out to obtain the Maury Povich audience during the day than actual, intelligent sports fans. As host of the daytime show First Take, Bayless often debates Stephen A. Smith during the football season on how Tebow is the greatest player on the planet and anyone who doesn’t think so is just a hater. First off, I would not know of the existence of this particular show if it was not for the fact that our break room television at work is constantly on ESPN and my frequent checks of Twitter throughout any given day. When I first heard these two idiots debate some moronic topic with the idea to get their names trending on Twitter as opposed to sparking any form of entertaining sports commentary I remembered that Smith was primarily a basketball journalist. After looking up Bayless I saw that he too had the majority of his background in basketball. To give these two any credit or validation on commentating or debating football topics is asinine but, like I said, they’re after the Povich crowd and not us critical thinkers. If you ever find yourself home sick on a weekday and have already seen the episode of the woman searching for her baby’s daddy, do not turn the channel to ESPN thinking you’ll get anymore entertained or enlightened from First Take.
The saving grace for those of us who love the NFL and keep getting disappointed by ESPN is the fact that the other networks are growing at rapid paces as far as expanding their NFL coverage. NBC stole the Sunday Night Football from ESPN (although listening to Collingsworth kills my soul a little bit more each season) and now have the bigger marquis game each week over the Monday Night Football that ESPN holds. CBS is growing with their sports radio stations as well as Fox Sports. I happen to listen to sports talk radio all day long during my workday and I can give you the rundown of each of the national shows no matter what the day or the topic. On Mike & Mike Greeny will mention how nerdy and/or metro sexual he is and Golic will mention being fat and a former player. Colin Cowherd will call Belichick a genius and SVP & Russillo will explain time and time again why they are just so much effing cooler than you. There, save yourself the trouble and find some local sports talk radio to listen to instead. Thankfully, I feel like ESPN might not actually get the chance to completely ruin the NFL for us diehards, as the alternative options are increasing by the minute.