Once upon a time, summer was the most glorious season of American sports. The height of the baseball season used to be the pinnacle of all-consuming athletic interest. Today, however, tainted and lethargic, baseball no longer holds our interest… or at least not enough to satiate the 24-hour demand of America’s favorite sports network. Thus, ESPN is broadcasting their searing debate about “Who’s Now?” It’s an inane question, being seriously discussed on-air by men who are old enough that they should be ashamed of themselves for discussing it. I’m not saying that Fox Sports Net is any angel when it comes to this (the “Best Damn 50…” is also rancid programming), but ESPN is once again indulging its desire to be sports news, not just report on it. It’s a desire I understand, and not an intolerable fault in the relaxed sphere of sports journalism — the ESPY’s, for example, follow a rich tradition of news organizations presenting sports awards (AP All-Americans, the USA TODAY/Coaches’ Poll). But something less utterly stupid could be used to take up their empty programming time. I genuinely feel affronted that this pathetic “tournament” has been thrust at me as something I should appreciate.
I appreciate thought, and there are issues in sports that can be approached thoughtfully, and discussed without screaming and carrying on, or babbling about how popular some rich athlete is. But apparently ESPN believes its general audience is too damn stupid to appreciate thought — which is probably why NFL Matchup is scheduled at 8 AM on Sundays rather than folded into the main NFL show. ESPN has long favored hootin’ and hollerin’ over serious discussion, quality shows like Matchup and Outside the Lines notwithstanding. And sometimes the formula works, especially on shows like Pardon the Interruption, where nobody takes themselves too seriously. But to see the inane treated as a matter of serious import, as it is in the “Who’s Now?” segments, just pushes it to the edge for me. I may re-evaluate when football season rolls around, but for now, at least, ESPN is out of my channel rotation and my web digests. Apparently ESPN doesn’t want to be watched by people who respect intelligent dialogue, and it won’t be any great loss to me to give them what they want.