I am just way too excited about this guest post. I have been reading Michael Litos’ blog The CAA: Life as a Mid-Major for some time. I also bought and reviewed his book Cinderella: Inside the Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball as soon as it came out, and I’m one of those cheap dudes who almost never buys hardcovers. So suffice to say I was eager to publish the following screed about what’s screwing up sports for a guy who so clearly loves (loved?) them.
Take it away, Michael.
This notion came about in what became the perfect storm of unrelated events conspiring to send my mind whirring over the past three days:
- A friend emailed me, lamenting he hadn’t made it to
an Atlanta Braves game this year, and he made THE
statement–“I am unsure if I miss it.”
- I’d been bandying about ideas to write a guest blog
spot for His Extrapolatorness, and my excuse the other
day for not writing was “doing the dishes.”
- Tuesday morning, while driving to work, I tuned my
radio to an FM station, quickly, because if I listened
to one more minute of “Mike and Mike in the Morning” I
would be forced to roll down the window and puke–not
exactly intelligent at 70mph.
And the nearly-broken-down lawn mower whirring noise that signals my brain activity cranking up began as I started to do the math. I gave up SportsCenter as unwatchable about four years ago. Oh, I’ll flip by poker or the spelling bee or some other inane programming that an ESPN marketing foof has chosen to call “sports” and catch a score on the crawl. But the highlight show? No dice.
I used to be able to quote the lifetime batting average of Bip Roberts. In the minors. Now, I have a fantasy baseball team with five guys on it that I’d literally never heard of until the Yahoo auto selection placed them on my roster. (Hunter Pence? Wasn’t he in that group with Timberlake?) My fantasy football and fantasy golf and three fantasy baseball teams have morphed to the lone baseball team stocked with guys I don’t know.
I gave the NHL playoffs some love, but I had no idea who was good and who was not. The NBA? Gave that up when Dominique Wilkins retired. Soccer? You’re kidding, right? For five years I hit opening day at Camden Yards with a good friend and swig off-brand Stellas all afternoon but now I’ll be lucky to make it to a game at all, and even luckier if I avoid heading to the aquarium by the fourth inning.
It kept going like that. The “sports room” at my house is now located in “the attic.” The media and news is no different. I used to eat up Frank Deford and now I do my best to avoid the blathering of any number of self important dolts I’ll simply call The Lupicas. Sports has become more than unwatchable, with the AT&T call to the bullpen and the Lil’ Smokies Hot Dog Dunk of the Game. It’s become unlistenable. Thanks to Golic and horrific local programming, today my drive time choice was actually some international currency expert talking about Nixon and the gold standard on NPR. With apologies to Dave Barry, I am not making this up.
Look, I’m 39 years old, I reasoned. Of course I’m going to get older and be more discerning about my time and my devotion to sports. But my passion for college hoops has always been constant, so it couldn’t be that. Perplexed, I am.
And then, like the sixth beer, it hit me: it’s ESPNs fault. I don’t hate sports. I hate ESPN and what they’ve done to sports.
Noted fastball slugger Reggie Jackson once said when asked if he liked a fastball from noted flamethrower Nolan Ryan that “I like fastballs. I like ice cream, too. Just not when you feed it to me by the gallon.” Well said. ESPN is ruining sports because they try to do too much of everything. SportsCenter became all schtick. Mike and Mike became a junior high school at some point. And ESPN.com? I’ve said it on my blog that I don’t go there anymore because you can’t find the content with all the Vegas-style design. (In the words of the guys from ncaahoopstoday.com, Free Andy Katz!)
A good friend tried to tell me last night that I’m not the ESPN demographic. While that may be true, that’s also ridiculous. The day I turned 25 should not have been the day I became irrelevant to the Worldwide Leader. But I did, and there are a bunch of hand-wringers like me wondering what in the hell happened to sports. I’ll tell you what happened: nothing. The only thing that has happened is that you have to look harder for the things that attracted geezers like us in the first place.
See through the clutter to 1977: the game of the week, All Star Baseball with the little spinny things and cardboard discs, and heading out with your friends to play a little street football. It’s about guys like Whelliston and Mottram, who carry a passion for what they do. It’s not about the pride that some snot-nosed 23-year old gets because he can call sports radio and discuss the minutiae of the cover-two defense.
You just have to look harder, and so do I.
But buck up…ESPN may be doing its God-awful best to send sports straight to the crapper, but the world of sports is changing again. The manner in which people gather and present information is quickly moving into the hands of those same people. This blog is an example.
Okay, so sports is still important. But it’s way different. Again.