Thursday, September 29, 2011

ESPN........... Where have you gone?

It is well documented what the Lord did in seven days. I am a firm believer however, that on the eighth day he kicked back and watched ESPN. In 1983, I met and married my wife. She was beautiful, had a great sense of humor, loved "The Three Stooges," and.............HAD CABLE!!!!!!  It was the beginning of a continuing love affair....... My wife, who is looking over my shoulder, is wondering if I mean our marriage or my love of 24 hour sports.

But the network that taught me the rules of Australian and Canadian Football is beginning to do some things that test even its most loyal fans. Some see it as biased, others see it as bad journalism and others see it as the natural result of going from a business of ideals to a conglomerate of greed. I guess I look at it as I would a childhood friend who grew up, went off to a commune, smoked a little Maui Wowie and came back wearing an Indian Dhoti. He kind of looks the same, but what the Hell is he thinking?

I go back to the opening of the Anaheim Angels Stadium. It was treated as if the gates of Heaven had opened up and allowed us in. Plus, we were going to get to see the Angels play. With Chris Berman in tow, the Disney machine played us all. An embarrassing three hour Disney infomercial followed. Of course Disney, ESPN, and ABC are all the same company. Funny, other new stadiums did not get the same treatment. I guess Mickey and Minnie have a dark side after all.

More recently we have seen a quick succession of more questionable decisions. My old friend is still my friend, but things are a little different now. Many of us love the network so much that we ignored the small cracks in the foundation. Rush Limbaugh and Dennis Miller were temporary set backs. Defending Ron Artest? Just a couple of ex-players opinions. And the "Decision"? Surely the network will not make that kind of mistake again.

But now comes the Longhorn Network. I must pause now to offer full disclosure. I am from Texas and grew up a fan of the old Southwest Conference. It is not that I dislike the Longhorns, it is that I can't stand Mack Brown. I have never forgiven him for the Major Applewhite decision although it seems Applewhite has. Longhorn players of my day were the real deal. Jim Bertelsen, Steve Wooster, Ted Koy and James Street were heroes. Earl Campbell, Vince Young, Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley followed in recent years and I liked watching them all play.

But something does not feel right about this new ESPN-Texas venture. No matter what is said publicly, it was a huge factor in the defection of Texas A&M to the SEC. ESPN is notorious for not promoting sports they do not broadcast and there is real fear in Aggieland is that this bias will carry over to individual teams. It seemed out of place when NBC signed on with Notre Dame, but then again the Irish were an independent. Texas is a member of a conference and a supposedly neutral network is signing on with an individual member of a conference. I guess I am more surprised that the other members of the Big 12 didn't follow A&M.

The conflict of interest is as obvious as a USC cheerleader. Will ESPN cover the Longhorns as they would Ohio State? Their history says no. It is not like they will ignore the other teams, but much like Angel Stadium, we (and more importantly Blue Chip recruits) will see many more "special interest" stories and promotions regarding the network and by proxy the 'Horns. It is just another small hole in the dike and hopefully it will not be the one that lets the floodwater in.

I want to just shake my old friend and bring him back to his senses. Change is inevitable, but when that change causes you to move away from your core values, you begin to lose your way and soon will never find your way home............... Got to go.......... Sport Center is on at 10


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