Thursday, September 11, 2008


I do not like Ozzie Guillen. He seems to be a good manager and he certainly is successful, but I just think his act is tired. And yes, I believe it's an act - maybe to deflect pressure from his players, maybe he's just a media whore. I won't pretend to know, but I don't for a second believe the man is a frothing lunatic. Why would reasonably intelligent athletes enjoy playing for such a man? That assumes the Pale Hose enjoy playing for him and I sincerely believe they do. Anyway, my point is that regardless of how I feel about him, what ESPN does to Guillen is lazy, counterproductive, and a microcosm of ESPN's general approach to sports coverage.

I try to avoid all its tentacles as much as possible, but last night I caught a 30 second clip of Sportscenter. In my defense, I left my Tivo on Sports MTV in order to record the last 4 innings of the Rays-Sox game (not available on any other channel) and over-shot Carlos Pena's heroics. Anyway, I caught ESPN anchorman A gleefully reading Guillen's latest tirade re Lou Pinella, which is randomly peppered with expletives as is Ozzie's custom (this ensures it will makes the show). Gleefully is no exaggeration; anchorman A was literally giggling while he did the voice-over.

Of course, that glee will quickly become condemnation as the network bleeds the self-perpetuated story for the next day or 2. It's chattering heads will take to the airwaves to chastise Guillen for his behavior and language. Anchorman A will probably even get in on the action; at the very least his colleagues will. This is what ESPN does and it has become an unparalleled expert at the art of controversy fabrication. The network specializes in taking an absurd episode and turning it into 24-48 hours worth of superficial bull excrement.

Need proof? I offer the 180 from glee to reprobation. How can you introduce the story with laughter and then spend 24 hours on the attack? If the network continues to treat it like the nonsense it is, then the story dies when anchorman A finishes giggling. Of course, that would mean generating actual coverage so the personalities will instead tap their ample reserves of outrage and bile. Get your raincoat.

Furthermore, I know, you know, and ESPN knows that placing the clip at the fore of Sportscenter and spending however much time debating Ozzie Guillen will not stop Ozzie Guillen from repeating his behavior. On the contrary, it only reinforces his behavior by allowing Guillen to achieve whatever his goal is. Regardless of his motivation, the semi-sensical antics end if they serve no purpose i.e. his mug disappears from the tube and his name from the headlines. It does not take a genius to realize this. The only logical conclusion then is that ESPN has no interest in stopping him. I consider myself a pretty reasonable person and if something bothers me, right or wrong, I'm hoping it goes away. I am certainly not perpetuating it.

As is this case with disturbing frequency, you only need to remember a lesson learned as a child: ignore it and it will go away. Don't like what Rush Limbaugh calls thoughts? Ignore him. Don't like Jesse Jackson's -ations? Ignore him. Don't like Dan Brown's theories on Christ? Ignore him. What you certainly do not do is take to the highest tower and shout his/her name, metaphorically speaking (or literally but for various reasons).

That is really the bigger issue. The problem is not really the next 24 hours of useless coverage (I'm not actually positive that will happen but it sure made for a nice paragraph didn't it?), the problem is that ESPN's handled this poetic outburst in such a way to guarantee further outbursts. From Guillen and others. The same can be said re ESPN's exploitation of Chad Johnson (think he'd have changed his name if ESPN didn't give the Ocho Cinco angle so much play?), TO, and any other supremely gifted ego. These guys live to see their names and faces whenever and wherever they can so they are going to repeat any behavior that satisfies that desire.

If you want to get philosophical, which is always a nice thing to do at the end, you could argue that ESPN and its media brethren are indirectly responsible for the self-destruction of such athletes and personalities. Specifically re ESPN, it reinforces the obnoxious exploits by splashing them across its airwaves thus guaranteeing reptition in the future. Repitition naturally leads to more extreme behavior since stale doesn't play. The negative gets worse until it crosses a line. At which point, ESPN moves on to the next ego and the athlete is in the wind.

ESPN and the media would deny this, which is perversely funny. They spend every waking moment augmenting their power and influence while simultaneously denying they have any.

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