>>> Casual Misanthropy
By staff writer JD Rebello
May 17, 2006

As a recent college graduate with a journalism degree and a dream of getting into sportswriting, I'm taking a tremendous career risk with the following statement:

ESPN blows.

Let me just preface this by saying it wasn't always this way. Back in my day (anthropologists refer to this as “the 90’s”) ESPN was THE channel. If you even remotely cared about sports, you watched ESPN. Back then, SportsCenter was the evening news. And if you cared about something other than basketball, ESPN didn't look at you likeyou just rang their doorbell to tell them you're a convicted sex offender who just moved into the neighborhood.

How do I hate ESPN? Let me count the ways.

“I don't watch ESPN to watch Michael Madsen play cards. I watch it for sports. Just like I should be able to watch UPN for the word ‘schnap.'”

1. Way too much love for the NBA.

I've written about this on a number of occasions—the NBA is not as popular as ESPN would have you believe. In the Boston TV market, the Celtics gets ratings equivalent to the Bruins. The Bruins. The same Bruins who routinely trade their best players (they traded their top two this season, but did give an extension to a career AHL goalie…genius). The same Bruins who don't sell out playoff games. The same Bruins who pop up on Google whenever you do a search for “worst sports owner.”

Anyway, it's like this all over the country. People don't care that much about the NBA. Granted, it's more popular than the NHL, but wouldn't it have to be when THE premier sports network treats it like Mandy Moore got treated in Walk to Remember (minus the whole leukemia thing, and yes I realize that's my gayest reference ever).

The NBA is slow, boring and overhyped. We don't need 20 minutes of analysis for a Pistons-Cavs game. We don't need 30 minutes of debating bullshit like, ” Should Ron Artest be suspended for wearing white after Labor Day?” and, ” Can we just start calling Tony Parker ‘Mr. Longoria?'” And we don't need Stephen A. Smith in any capacity.

Too much overhype for everything. Take LeBron James. Seems like a nice guy. Good basketball player. But if he's only 21, I'm 9. That said, this guy is more overrated than Peyton Manning and Kelly Clarkson having a baby and pissing all over it. Honestly, when sportswriters across America tell you we're watching the next great player, don't you expect something? In the four minutes of Cavaliers action I've seen this year, the only thing that stood out was LeBron's sudden penchant for chewing his nails in crunch time. He looks like a 93-pound girl trying to drive from Phoenix to Jersey without stopping to take a piss.

Every so often, I catch Michael Jordan's 60-point playoff game against the Celtics and that was something special, watching a great player take his team to a higher place. With LeBron, it's like watching The Shield. Everyone tells you it's great, but you just don't see it. And why the fuck does the camera keep shaking?

Speaking of overhype, thy name is Barry Bonds. Look, I don't give a shit if he hits 714 or not. That number's already been broken, and by a guy who wasn't more inflated than a fucking Underdog float. Oh, and as for Danny Glover and Jesse Jackson, people don't hate Barry Bonds because he's black. People hate Barry Bonds because he's a condescending prick. If Ken Griffey Jr. was chasing the record, people would be throwing him a parade. Attitude goes a long way.

2. The treatment of the NHL.

I realize you're all sick of me showering this sport with praise, but have you been watching the playoffs? In the West, the four lower seeds all advanced in the first round, four games have gone into triple overtime, San Jose fans are booing the Canadian national anthem, and Christ did you see that hit on R.J. Umberger in the Sabres-Flyers series? It's on YouTube; watch it and then tell me you'd rather watch basketball. Anyway, I am absolutely disgusted by ESPN's treatment of hockey. Remember how FEMA treated Katrina victims? That's how ESPN treats hockey, but worse!

For starters, you can forget about a hockey game ever kicking off SportsCenter, even one that goes into three overtimes and has Jimmy Hoffa blowing Elvis at center ice. And when they do show hockey, they bring in Barry Melrose like he's a fucking Latvian interpreter to explain the games to the brain-dead anchor. The worst was watching Mike Greenberg (who I normally like) completely butcher Anaheim goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's names during a segment. Tough name, I grant you, but he's a PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE! Don't these dicks have production assistants to guide them through a name so they don't sound like a total assclown on national television?

3. The afternoon TV block.

Listen to this schedule: Woody Paige and Skip Bayless from 4-4:30, Jim Rome from 4:30-5, probably Woody Paige and Jay Mariotti from 5-5:30, and Michael Wilbon from 5:30-6. If you don't know any of these names, A) you're a liar because a non-ESPN watcher would never have made it this far into the column, and B) you're one lucky sonofabitch.

Maybe I'm crazy, but shouldn't TV personalities have, well, personalities? Mariotti and Bayless are the worst, but Wilbon is gathering steam. Honestly, if I have to hear him berate a Red Sox-Yankees game in May and then promote some horseshit involving the Baby Bulls in November, I'm going to take a chainsaw to his ugly bald head. How can you sit there and tell me Serena Williams is hot?! She looks like Seabiscuit!

4. ESPN Page 2.

How about this crew of writers? You've got two guys who make race an issue every other week (Scoop and Jayson Whitlock), one writer devoted entirely to uniforms, one guy who's a Seattle Mariners fan and actually cops to it, and one guy (the guy who writes Daily Quickie) who's so falsely reactionary you could hit him with a blunt instrument and he'd argue that it didn't hurt just to get a rise out of people.

Even Bill Simmons has fallen off. I'm sorry, but anyone who claims not to follow the National League in baseball and doesn't watch hockey or college football shouldn't call themselves a “Sports Guy.” Plus, he's part of that annoying revolution to make ESPN just another subset of the NBA's public relations department. Honestly Bill, why would anyone (ANYONE) want to read a 1,500-word column about the Clippers? (And yes, I'm still bitter that I lost the Intern Contest.)

5. The treatment of Outside the Lines.

Here is probably the best sports show on TV, an intriguing topic every episode and a charismatic host. So where does ESPN put it? Weeknights at 12:30AM. Good idea. Granted, TV has successfully proven that intelligent, well-done shows don't belong in primetime. We can thank American Idol for that.

6. Have I mentioned too much NBA?

Just checking.

7. The ridiculous original programming.

Ooh, Tilt. And whoa, it's “3.” Honestly, what is with all these channels not delivering on their promise? I don't watch ESPN to watch Michael Madsen play cards. I watch it for sports. Just like I should be able to watch MTV for music or UPN for the word “schnap.” What if Comedy Central decided to air Hotel Rwanda? What if CSPAN showed old reruns of Salute Your Shorts? What if ABC showed you a sitcom that didn't make you want to jump off a roof into a dumpster full of dogshit? Wouldn't you be disappointed? Didn’t they fail to live up to their word?

8. The downfall of ESPN Classic.

Brilliant idea, but now? I suppose if you like boxing in black-and-white and Division 2 college football games from 1982, it's okay. How about some Red Sox-Yankee playoff games? Or recent Super Bowls? Or something else to make us New Englanders happy in a time when we lost Johnny Damon and Adam Vinatieri in the same fiscal year?

9. All that Monday Night Football promoting.

Assholes, it's May. It's 50 degrees and pouring in Boston. You know we're going to watch it, leave us alone.

10. The ESPN Insider.

Capitalism at it's cruelest. It costs six bucks a month to read Buster Olney? What the shit is that? And for those who need their Olney fix, I'll save you the time and money: ” Everything the Yankees do is great!” So there you go. I still can't believe he thinks the Yankees can swing a trade with Philly for Bobby Abreu. Ooh, with all their great prospects? Please. I've got a dog with Crohn's disease who stands a better shot at Baseball America than some assface in the Yankees organization. And at 63 (dog years), she's at least younger than Bernie Williams.

And by the way, I realize Gammons writes the same way with the Red Sox, but you know what? I'm a Red Sox fan so I don't give a fuck. If you want the other side, go read a college humor column by a Yankees fan. That would be interesting. I imagine it would be tough to write with my head up my own ass. Fuck Buster Olney and fuck the Yankees. I'm glad Matsui broke his wrist, I hope he gets bird flu.

Goddamnit, ESPN. Getting me all frazzled.