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"The Decision" Reveals What ESPN Truly Is.....

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Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

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I want to preface this by saying I am by no means a television producer/director/key-grip, so the opinion to follow is strictly based on being a viewer of ESPN for almost my entire lifetime.   
The highest rated television program last night on broadcast and cable television was indeed the most anticipated announcement in sports since Tiger Woods spoke for the first time following his numerous affairs.  Built up and simply named "The Decision", ESPN decided to sell a hour of its programming in prime time so the "King" of Cleveland can have an exclusive national audience to say the team he plans on playing for years to come.
 
As a long time viewer of the four letter network, this was by far the most embarrassing broadcast in their history on the air. I've seen them turn the home run derby from a fun event to a three hour long marathon with little excitement.  I've seen them take Monday Night Football and turn it into an amateur hour of broadcasting.  I've seen them turn the NBA and NFL Drafts into infomercials for their "experts" rather than what the teams are actually adding to their teams.
 
"The Decision" was by far the most embarrassing example of how ESPN has turned away from the roots of sports journalism.
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How does a simple:

"In this fall, this is very tough, in this fall I am going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat."

have to take a hour in the first place?  I understand people will be watching because it is LeBron James and it is indeed "The Decision."  To fill time and space for the first 22 minutes of the program asking the same questions to the same "experts" who plastered the three hour "pre-game" sportscenter with the same opinions was nothing more than giving your brand and "experts" more publicity than they deserved.  The first 22 minutes of a LeBron James program did not include LeBron James, it included "ESPN NBA Experts" instead spitting the same opinions the world has heard for the duration of the entire day.
 
To sit there and laud the greatness of a player who has not won one title in his career is simply a nod to the NBA.  The first 22 minutes of banter among Michael Wilbon, Stuart Scott, Chris Broussard, and Jon Barry was nothing more than a 22 minute promo why ESPN should continue to carry NBA games on their home network and ABC television.  The lickage from these four "experts" on a 25 year old basketball player, you would have thought that Congress should enact a national holiday on this day to mark this historic announcement....which is still at heart a free agent signing with a team.
 
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So then we get to "The Decision"....or at least we thought we did.  Hand picked journalist Jim Gray (who pitched the idea to Lebron's camp) was the interviewer for the evening as LeBron dressed like he just got back from a hoe-down sat in a basketball gym of the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, CT.  You would think a well respected journalist like Jim Gray who has covered Super Bowls, Olympiads, NBA Finals, NCAA Final Fours, major PGA events....would ask the question right out of the gate because finally the time has come.   
 
Instead Gray took the route of "buttering up" LeBron with question after question after question dealing with how the decision was made before he announces it.  Of the 16 questions before we heard "The Decision", they included:

1. "What's new? What's been going on with you this summer? "
2. "Would you like to sleep on it a little longer, or are you ready to make this decision?"
3. "Are you still a nail biter?"
 
Jim Gray acted more like a hand puppet for ESPN than an actual journalist with these first 16 questions.  The point to fill time on a hour long lick-fest of LeBron James by asking such redundant questions which could have been answered well after "The Decision" was actually made was shameful.  Any journalist in his right frame of mind would get to the meat of the matter then ask react questions such as those listed above.  Instead, let's keep trying to hold that audience as long as we can and get that Neilsen rating up as high as it can go....because we all know that as soon as he says ______.....people will tune out.   
 
Where is the integrity of ESPN as sports journalists that they intentionally kept teasing the audience with not only 16 questions of bulls**t before the actual announcement, but also showing pictures of what LeBron James would look like wearing the jersey of the team he would choose to play for?

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Instead of treating "The Decision" as a news story, the folks at ESPN turned the biggest announcement in sports into a 73 minute infomercial which only backs the notion that they are indeed a biased television network.  Where is the integrity when you fill time asking your experts not once but twice in a 19 minute span of filler where they think Lebron is headed?  Where is the straight-forward journalism when you fill time comparing what LeBron would look like wearing a Nets jersey over a Heat jersey?  Where is your spirit of journalism when you dodge the one question everyone wants an answer for with verbose questions about if LeBron is still a nail biter? 

Then the cherry on the top of the crap sundae.....your host Stuart Scott shows no principle fawning over LeBron James saying:
 
"There have always been people who complain that athletes make decisions because of money instead of winning (and) you clearly did not."
 
Followed by Scott asking "The King" to coach him in hoops for a game of horse.
 
I hope that fans (like me) who watched this saw what ESPN has turned into, a self serving awful exhibition of catering to whoever gets them ratings and money.  That sound you hear is the sound of ESPN's integrity as a news outlet leaving the scene.
 
Shameful
 
-RoCk
 
Rock Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and co-host of The Joe O And Rock Show on WSCR 670AM The Score
 
You can follow The Mully And Hanley Morning Show at twitter.com/mullyhanley
 
You can follow The Joe O And Rock Show at twitter.com/joeoandrockshow



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