ESPN and the Business of Now; Damn the History

ESPN and the Business of Now; Damn the History

The Business of Now is a drug.

It’s the equivalent of the ad agency promoting a new product: the shiny new car, the vacation of your dreams, or the perfume that will make men wither.

The Business of Now wants you to crave the present, yearn for the future, and forget the past. 

And nobody runs the Business of Now better than the Entertainment and Sports Network.

With topical shows like SportsNation, Pardon the Interruption, and Around the Horn, ESPN whores out the newest of the new in a format that makes it easy for the young and eager to understand…and with SportsCenter, it hits an all-time high.

Is Kobe Bryant the greatest player in NBA All-Star game history?  Have you seen a better post-season than the 2011 MLB playoffs?  Has there been any player in NBA history who has come out of nowhere like Jeremy Lin?  Is Tim Tebow the greatest college player of all-time?

These are just a couple examples of some ridiculous questions over the years.  Each of these questions has a historical response, but the business of ‘now’ could care less.  The Business of Now wants 2012.  It wants your attention.  It doesn’t want you to think.  It wants you to realize that yesterday’s game could’ve been the best ever, that this player did something that will never happen again, or that this new rookie is revolutionizing the game like none other before him.

The Business of Now thinks that drug scandals, mental illness, and disrespecting players are proof that we are headed in a sad direction…even if the past shows differently.

This business model for the network is simple:  Nothing like this has happened before!  Now, do I have your attention?  Good.  Now please sit down and watch the most important hour of your life.

What ESPN has tried to fulfill in classic specials is buried.  ESPN Classic has lost money and is hanging by a thread.  The 30 for 30 specials focused on sports events of the past 30 years; a huge leap for the network.  Late specials on black colleges and race in sports have been admirable. 

However, the lack of perspective for historical knowledge in its basic programming has created a void.  SportsCenter is the biggest offender.  It does nothing but make ESPN a glorified holder of the Business of Now.

While ESPN is a violator, we are not innocent.  According to a new publication by Harvard professor Louis Menand, “The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University,” only 2 percent of college students major in history — 4 percent in English, 22 percent in business.

The humanities are dead.  As listed by T.R. Fehrenbach on ‘MySanAntonio’, “While much of the real past is unsavory, complex (no nation or people is ever entirely good or evil) and did not turn out the way many would prefer, political correctness often halts historical correctness.”

In sports history, why know the past if it makes us ask questions that don’t qualify with our current perspective? 

The violation of perspective has been painted all over the network.

The Syracuse/UConn matchup in the 2009 Big East tournament solidified itself as the ‘greatest college basketball game ever played’.  Six overtimes, two teams fighting for post-season seeding, Madison Square Garden…it had it all.  As the discussion moved on, the perspective waned.  Nobody seemed to remember the 1992 East Regional Final between Duke and Kentucky. 

More importantly, nobody mentioned at any point the most stunning Final Four in NCAA history.  North Carolina won the national championship in 1957 by defeating Michigan State AND Kansas in 3 OT’s.  Just to iterate, each game went 3 OTs.  In the title game, Kansas featured a guy by the name of Wilt Chamberlain; one of the greatest players of all-time.  Chamberlain was shut down in the extra sessions.  This was the equivalent of LeBron James being shut down in a Game 7 of an NBA Final.

Syracuse and UConn featured Jonny Flynn.  That’s Jonny “I averaged 5.3 PPG last year” Flynn.  It was Flynn and whole lot of garbage.  But the Business of Now isn’t interested in that.  Two teams played on ESPN and the game went six overtimes.  That’s all you need to know.  We are the Worldwide Leader.  You will listen to us.  This is the greatest game ever.

Then there’s this gem from 2011:  The 2011 MLB Playoffs was the greatest post-season of all-time. 

Lock.  It’s over.  If you heard people talk about it on SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight, it was over.  Open and shut. 

No mention of the ’85 playoffs where the Cards won Game 5 on a home run by a player who regularly couldn’t hit a ball past the outfield.  No mention that the Cards followed it up with a 9th inning comeback in Game 6.  No mention of a 3-1 comeback by the Royals over the Blue Jays.  No mention of the Royals’ amazing 3-1 comeback in the World Series that featured one of the most disputed callsin Major League history.

Even more reprehensible, no mention of the 1986 playoffs.  Down to their final strike, the Red Sox came from behind to win Game 5; then rallied to win 6 and 7.  The Mets and Astros played a series that featured four games decided by one run; with three of the games decided by the final inning.  Then, the World Series which featured one of the most famous games of all-time; a series that went seven games.

Did the people on staff even now that prior to 1969 there was no playoff rounds outside of the World Series?  If that’s the case, you could list 1909, 1912, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1929, 1934, 1947, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958…or 1960.  1960.  End of story.  Look it up.

Was Tim Tebow the greatest college football player of all-time?  Future professionals play for the University of Florida.  Can a player who plays around pros compare to a Steve McNair at Alcorn State?  Walter Payton at Jackson State?  Jerry Rice at Mississippi Valley State?  Was it just me, or did Archie Griffin win back-to-back Heismans in a run-heavy Big Ten where people regularly stacked 8 guys in the box?  Did I miss that?  Was Sammy Baugh a top quarterback, punter, AND defensive back at TCU?  Did I miss that, too?

Is mental health an issue that needs to be looked at in-depth?  Dave Duerson dies from suicide.  Players are suffering from depression more and more.  We don’t remember it as a big problem before.  Click on this link…because I’m not sure ESPN did.  It’s always been there, kids.

Are athletes more disrespectful these days?  Of course they are, says ESPN!  Just don’t mention the fact that Ty Cobb once attacked a crippled man or that Babe Ruth went into the stands.

Then is it the fans that are more disrespectful? More so than ever!  Like when Tigers fans threw bottles at Ducky Medwick in Game 7 of the 1934 World Series?  Or the fans who heckled Jackie Robinson?  Or when the New York Rangers went into the stands in the 1970s?  You’re right…so disrespectful these days.

The latest is the amazing story of Jeremy Lin…and while the story is amazing, you can find some historical parallels.  Tom Brady came off the flipping bench and won three flipping Super Bowls…not just play well in 10 games.  Steve Nash only played over 65 games once in his first four years.  His rookie season he averaged 3 PPG and 2 APG.  He never averaged more than 5.5 APG in his first five seasons until he got a new system and suddenly exploded into an All-Star.  Now, he’s a Hall of Famer.  But, you’re right…never happened before.

The whole lack of historical perspective makes you wonder.  What would happen if SportsCenter was around back in the day?  What would happen when the 1909 World Series featured the two best players in the game; Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner…and what if it went the distance?!  The 1912 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Giants would have lit up the east coast bias of the network.  When Bob Pettit scored 50 points in Game 6 of the 1958 Finals to beat the Celtics, SportsCenter may have spontaneously combusted.  Have you heard of those three events being even mentioned before on a broadcast?  Chances are you haven’t…and you never will.

That’s because those examples don’t qualify with the Business of Now.  There’s no money in history.  If you need to choose ‘The Greatest Game We’ve Ever Seen’ over ‘Well, Maybe it was the Greatest Game We’ve Ever Seen’, who is the marketing group going to choose?  They’ll choose the ‘now’.

In the next couple weeks, something will happen that you’ve never seen before.  That’s because ESPN told you…but when you open the books, you’ll be surprised to find many more examples. 

Just don’t tell the leaders in Bristol.  The past doesn’t sell.

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  • [standing ovation] THANK YOU

  • I couldn't help but thinking of ESPN's huge PR blitz for their "tournament brackets" of Who is More Now? That cry for help is just about ground zero for your point here- a point I agree with.

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