Any frequent visitor to this site will know that I'm no fan of the current sports media landscape. In fact, I've withdrawn myself from even participating in it. I haven't written for Sports On Earth, Vice Sports, or anywhere outside of this website (or my books) in nearly a year at this point. I see no purpose in being part of the mainsteam sports media system. Its only value is to the leagues as a propaganda tool. To sports fans, it's worthless.
To prove my point, let me guide you through ESPN's website--the "Worldwide Leader in Sports"--as it existed on Wednesday May 18th at around 8 pm EST. The screen caps were taken as I scrolled through the website's main page.
My question to you is to tell me which article, link, or video demands to be clicked on to be read or watched?
Here's the Top Headlines, since they might be difficult to read:
Source: Knicks to hire Hornacek as coach (story--not confirmed, mind you--in title)
Heat goals: Healthy finish; keep Wade, Whiteside (so what?)
LeBron: No idea what flagrant fouls is for me (LeBron apparently doesn't know NBA rules)
Yanks: Steinbrenner blames players, not Girardi (story in headline)
Transfer QB Webb snubs Colorado, picks Cal (story in headline)
Mets' Colon reportedly sued for child support (non-sports story & actually meaningless)
Kiper: Top offensive players by position for '17 (must be an "ESPN Insider" to access; Kiper's mock drafts have already begun and from his track record, are worthless)
And, if you're computer/tablet/cell phone can only access ESPN for some reason, you can "follow live" Game 2 of the Warriors v. Thunder Western Conference Finals.
Moving on, we're treated to an "Insider" opinion piece asking if the Thunder are now the favorite to defeat the Warriors; a video of Steph Curry warming up; and the rundown of the poor ESPN lackeys forced to live tweet Game 2 of the Warriors v. Thunder game.
Next, what Russell Westbrook wore to the second game of the Warriors v. Thunder series made bigger headlines that Game 2 of the NHL's Eastern Conference Finals between the Lightning and Penguins.
Even though college football is 100 days away from starting, it's apparently never too early to discuss who might win the Heisman Trophy, and it's also never too foolish for semi-knowledgable sports writers to guess at which teams will pick which untested players in yet another "mock draft." Yet only "Insiders" can access the latest MLB mock. Does any baseball fan really follow the league's draft?
The Girardi and Ravens stories are non-stories, but look! ESPN has a new website: the much anticipated The Undefeated. See, Grantland wasn't worth the cost, and FiveThirtyEight (which we'll get to) is too "cerebral" for some sports fanatics, but The Undefeated is needed. I guess. I would think if the articles posted there were worth anything, they could've just been posted on ESPN's website. Or ESPN could've created a subsection on its main site to post these. What's the diff, really? It's all the same company (read: Disney). Are the ads and sponsors going to be that different to justify yet another sports website?
Another "mock" draft that only Insiders can access (who's paying money to access this nonsense?). Then there's the "Tales from the NBA draft lottery" video which will give you "everything you need to know" about what went on backstage. Look, if the lottery ain't rigged, there ain't nothing worth seeing backstage, is there?
I don't even know what this means: Nine other times athletes balled too hard. And I wouldn't watch the video to find out.
Oh, look, there's Nate "Numbers" Silver (the guy who made his mark predicting Obama's election victory a while back then completely screwed the pooch saying there's no way Trump would win the GOP's nomination) and his FiveThirtyEight site. Boy, I bet every sports fan is wondering "how do men and women rate TV shows." Deep, deep numbers based writing there.
Can't get too far without trying to sell you something, since amazingly, ESPN's site is mostly ad-free. That's followed with a complaint piece about the pace of MLB games.
Look, if you think baseball games move too slow--since it is the only untimed sporting event around--you either (a) have no attention span or (b) don't like baseball. Otherwise, there is no problem except for the one the writer (here Jayson Stark) is making.
Cam Newton's car, everyone. And look, there's actual people who never heard of (or care) about Cam Newton. What insight!
Here's the closest thing to an investigative piece on the site: the Phillie Phanatic making an arrest. Oh, and once again something I don't quite comprehend: the 14 things I missed when LeBron dunked. That was just 2 points in a game where 199 points were scored, right?
That's as far as I went (or could stomach). This wasn't cherry-picking, either. I guarantee you that if you visit ESPN.com (or Fox Sports, Yahoo, SI, or any other mainstream sports site) right now the results of this experiment will be virtually the same.
What is of value? What isn't pure junk food news? And yet this website--and all the others out there--are being filled with this nonsense 24/7. Guys like Skip Bayless are now making $5 million a year. I'm not jealous. I wouldn't want his job. I wouldn't want to have to live tweet an NBA--or any other leagues'--playoff game. I wouldn't want to sell my soul to write any of these articles or watch hours of sports to find these video clips.
For example, check out the following exchange I had on Twitter with Matt Walks from ESPN (his Twitter profile reads: writer, editor, social media @ESPN). You might be tempted to list this under "people unclear of the concept":
i love the offseason pic.twitter.com/eKKc0AMlm4— Matt Walks (@mgwalks) May 24, 2016
I mean, seriously. What is the point of an "ESPN Insider" like Adam Schefter? He's not really revealing anything of note. He's not digging deep within the NFL and pulling out unknown nuggets of information about the reality of NFL football given all his "inside" contacts. No, his job is more like chief propagandist for the league & network, and for a guy who I'm assuming has a degree (or at least some background) in journalism, his job is a complete and total sell-out.
But the tweets continued:
See the 2 "hearts" (on Twitter, those are "likes") under my final response? ONE CAME FROM MATT WALKS! Did he not get that I was ripping on the company he works for? That I was mocking his inane tweets? Or is poor Matt stuck in a situation with a major media company he cannot control?
@mgwalks And I love solid, actual reporting and investigative journalism rather than league-sponsored propaganda.— Brian Tuohy (@TheFixIsInTuohy) May 24, 2016
Look, I get it. Sports is entertainment. I'm the one who's made that argument on more than one occasion (but apparently to some, it's not entertainment enough for the leagues and networks to manipulate those events like every single other entertainment entity is). But this sort of sports coverage is not just a time-suck, it's a mind-waster. It's distraction at it's highest level.
And that just may be the point of it.
I've often said that today's sporting events are publicized for the same reason the gladitorial games were held in Rome: to distract the populace. While the people play, the government gets away (with murder). I don't believe that's an exaggeration.
To go down the "conspiratorial" rabbit hole for a moment, a fan (Tom, to be exact) recently alerted me to the following little nugget about sports. Seems a Dr. Richard Day, who was supposedly tied to the Rockefeller family, gave a speech back in 1969 detailing, for lack of a better description, how the New World Order was going to alter America in the coming decades. You can read the details of the entire speech here, but what I focused on was this small part of it:
"SPORTS AS A TOOL OF SOCIAL CHANGE
"And along these lines then we can talk about sports. Sports in the United States was to be changed, in part as a way of de-emphasising nationalism. Soccer, a world-wide sport, was to be emphasised and pushed in the United States. This was of interest because in this area the game of soccer was virtually unknown at that time. I had a few friends who attended an elementary school other than the one I attended where they played soccer and they were a real novelty. This was back in the 50's. So to hear this man speak of soccer in this area was kind of surprising. Anyhow, soccer is seen as an international sport and would be promoted and the traditional sport of American baseball would be de-emphasised and possibly eliminated because it might be seen as too American. And he discussed eliminating this. One's first reaction would be - well, they pay the players poorly and they don't want to play for poor pay so they give up baseball and go into some other sport or some other activity. But he said that's really not how it works. Actually, the way to break down baseball would be to make the salaries go very high. The idea behind this was that as the salaries got ridiculously high there would be a certain amount of discontent and antagonism as people resented the athletes being paid so much, and the athletes would begin more and more to resent among themselves what other players were paid and would tend to abandon the sport. And these high salaries also could break the owners and alienate the fans. And then the fans would support soccer and the baseball fields could be used as soccer fields. It wasn't said definitely this would have to happen, but if the international flavour didn't come around rapidly enough this could be done.
"There was some comment along the same lines about football, although I seem to recall he said football would be harder to dismantle because it was so widely played in colleges as well as in the professional leagues and would be harder to tear down. There was something else also about the violence in football that met a psychological need that was perceived, and people have a need for this vicarious violence. So football, for that reason, might be left around to meet that need. The same thing is true of hockey. Hockey had more of an international flavour and would be emphasised. There was some foreseeable international competition about hockey and particularly soccer. At that time hockey was international between the United States and Canada. I was kind of surprised because I thought the speaker just never impressed me as being a hockey fan, and I am. And it turns out he was not. He just knew about the game and what it would do to this changing sports program. But in any event soccer was to be the keystone of athletics because it is already a world wide sport in South America, Europe, and parts of Asia and the United States should get on the bandwagon. All this would foster international competition so that we would all become citizens of the world to a greater extent than citizens of our own narrow nations.
"There was some discussion about hunting, not surprisingly. Hunting requires guns and gun control is a big element in these plans. I don't remember the details much, but the idea is that gun ownership is a privilege and not everybody should have guns. Hunting was an inadequate excuse for owning guns and everybody should be restricted in gun ownership. The few privileged people who should be allowed to hunt could maybe rent or borrow a gun from official quarters rather than own their own. After all, everybody doesn't have a need for a gun, is the way it was put. Very important in sports was sports for girls. Athletics would be pushed for girls. This was intended to replace dolls. Baby dolls would still be around, a few of them, but you would not see the number and variety of dolls. Dolls would not be pushed because girls should not be thinking about babies and reproduction. Girls should be out on the athletic field just as the boys are. Girls and boys really don't need to be all that different. Tea sets were to go the way of dolls, and all these things that traditionally were thought of as feminine would be de-emphasised as girls got into more masculine pursuits. Just one other thing I recall was that the sports pages would be full of the scores of girls teams just right along- there with the boys teams. And that's recently begun to appear after 20 years in our local papers. The girls sports scores are right along with the boys sports scores. So all of this is to change the role model of what young girls should look to be. While she's growing up she should look to be an athlete rather than to look forward to being a mother."
If you don't believe such a speech was given in 1969, fine. If you doubt the authenticity of it, fine. But even if the other doctor who related the details of this speech was just making it up, he was amazingly accurate about the future of sports given he made these statements regarding said speech 25+ years ago.
In the past few years, the sports media in the US has tried awfully hard to make pro soccer a thing here in the US (as if to prove my point, WFAN's Mike Francesa recently went off the deep end talking about Sports Illustrated's overboard soccer coverage). And there's no denying the push to make women's sports have an equal footing with men-dominated athletics. Not that I believe there's anything wrong with liking soccer or having men and women being seen as equals. But if there's a hidden agenda of social conditioning behind such a push, then I've got an issue.
More to come...