If we’re going to be honest here, ESPN is as responsible for the performance-enhancing boom as any sports entity. I think back to their coverage of the Home Run Derby throughout the mid-to-late 90s and early 2000s, when clowns like Stu Scott and Chris Berman would give embarrassing doses of verbal love to 6-foot-1, 280-pound men with muscles atop muscles atop muscles. We’re a nation that’s always loved power in our athletes, but ESPN took it to the next level. Every highlight is a home run, a dunk, an unruly check or a safety creaming an unsuspecting wide receiver over the middle. I can assure you that, without question, were the Jack Tatum-Darryl Stingley hit to happen today, ESPN would show the replay over and over and over and over. It’s the equivalent of sports pornâ€”easy, mindless viewing that the boobs eat up.
Personally, I love 1-0 pitching duels between Maddux and Pedro. I love crisp bounce passes and well-placed spirals just over the fingertips of a leaping receiver. I love glorious saves between the pipes and lengthy tennis rallies that ESPN would never showâ€”heaven forbid the viewer might turn the channel in search of a soda commercial.
I don’t care about Favre or Vick or T.O. I don’t want to hear Fernando Vina and Peter Gammons dodge steroids in a banal debate; don’t want to see Rick Reilly (a guy I genuinely like) stir up the snark for his 30 seconds of air time. I loathe sportswriters screaming B.S. at one another in a game show format. If Berman never anoints another nickname, well, praise Jesus.
When I was at ESPN.com, we were told we would be judged by how many views our columns received. In other words, to hell with depth, insight, dexterity, passion, enlightenment. Give us big names, wacky funny stuff and brainless goop. Oy.
That wasn’t for me.
I’m a sports fan. Not a moron.