In September, 1979 the debut of ESPN hit the air waves to the few cable subscribers there was in that year. It had no direction, and usually showed Australian Rules Football on a loop practically 24 hours a day. It was not doing well. There was a former DJ who had been in Washington DC a few years named George Michaels. He was the 3rd rated sports anchor out of the 3 networks. Mainly because he was the new guy. He had an idea. Turns out, so did the Rasmussen family.
They got ESPN up before George could convince his bosses to try his idea. Their reluctance makes it seem it wasn't Georges idea, but it really was. Total sports coverage. The birth of THE SPORTS MACHINE hit in 1980. George pioneered ideas into directions not yet thought of, yet that are now part of everyday broadcasts on all of the sports networks on all of the channels available. Even ideas only used by him, such as a local number to call to get free sports updates. This was before the internet obviously, so the Sports Machine Phone Lines were often lit up and busy. One message was lost through time from George, and it is a big one that truly affects society. George would report an event, or present a special interest story on a team or individual. He gave rodeo and wrestling time on his show. George never did let his opinion get in the way of the subject and story at hand.
ESPN has lost the way paved for them by George,. You can blame Disney, or even the Rasmussens for selling out. I don't. I see a bunch of non athletes trying to be part of the special click in the hearts of the viewer. To have their faces side by side on sports Rushmore with Jordan, Brown, Chamberlain, and so on. In their depths, they prefer to be in front of those Heroes. So they try to ignite themselves into our memories with outlandish behavior and exclamations. They disparage and disrespect the trailblazers by ignoring the obstacles they had to overcome, which paved the road to today. Whether you turn on Sports Center to hear Stu Scotts disingenuous " fo - shizzle " babble or the morning show First Take to hear Skip Bayless proclaim everything each day the " greatest of all time ", all you really see is divas trying to outshine the athletes they follow.
ESPN can also be accused of "dummifying" America. Here is a classic example. LeBron James got more air time from ESPN in high school than most of the NBA players did. The kid certainly is not short on confidence or arrogance and certainly ESPN's involvement is part of that equation. The kid passed on education, which is fine. Yet the flash of the spotlight certainly shines on how he thinks as well. LeBrons first move was to follow MJ and TV. Be Like Mike by signing with Nike. Stephon Marbury yapped some foolishness in regards to LeBron and all the kid could mutter was " He's not that good because his sneakers are cheap." This was in reference to Marbury putting out an affordable shoe. King James had been put so high in his ivory tower that he thinks everyone can afford his $200 Nikes made by under aged slave labor in Indonesia for pennies, like Mike. ESPN held the ladder for his climb, and will continue to feed his ego as long as possible. They already have placed him in the Top 100 All Time list. They'd like you to think he is top 10, in fact.
ESPN has no respect of the past. Football today greatly benefits from two rule changes made in 1979. The 5 yard chuck rule, instead of 10 yards, is the biggest. The other was allowing O linemen to extend their hands to block. These rules allow the WR to get open faster, for the pass rush to take longer. Making it easier to play QB, along with the mountain of other rules to feminize the position, the fact none call their own plays anymore and just a few easy to see examples. ESPN will have you thinking today's QB is the best when, in fact, most of today's QB cannot throw a 15 yard out. Perfect example is to watch Steve Young play for Tampa Bay, showing a very weak armed QB not yet reborn in the dink/ dunk west coast system in Frisco. He couldn't throw a 15 yard out if his life depended on it. No reason to expound on ESPN as the sports paparazzi network who digs through trash for stories, or wallows in trash to appease athletes ( like the T.O. incidents ). I think that foolishness is easily seen, but is actually accepted by the fans, for some disturbing reason.
Is there an answer for ESPN? We built this Frankenstein, so probably not. I just don't think most of us realize we should've supplied it with a brain too. You could even blame George Michael for helping ESPN dummify America by his giving P.T.I. its birth on his show. Tony Kornheiser was a Style section writer for the Washington Post who went to help the Sports section when a bunch of Post writers either retired or left all at the same time. The Style section is akin to People magazine, or Good Housekeeping. So, Kornholer ( as we call him in DC ) took his weak Jack Benny act and wrote about balls instead of flower bulbs. That same time the Post hired a beat reporter named Mike Wilbon. Wilbon stuck long enough to get a column. At this time, George Michaels created a weekly show called Redskin Report during football season. During basketball season, he calls it Full Court Press. He does the football show with his close friend and Redskin legend, Sonny Jurgenson. He has Wimpon ( his name in DC ) on to whine how great Chicago was so everyone could laugh at him. Kornholer would try to chime in with weak one liners. It was always funny when George called Wimpon a wimp ( he REALLY is a HUGE wimp )! So, if George hadn't asked those two onto his show there would be no P.T.I. today. Kornholer would probably be punching up a story on the skirts and purses coming out in '08, and Wimpon would be writing yet another article telling us how the Cubs are the best and Tom Boerwinkle to Dave Schellhase was an unstoppable Bulls combo.
So, rest knowing ESPN has given the youth a new dream direction. Instead of winning the game for the team, they can get endorsements, payola and have it be all about them.
ESPN = The ME generation