JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

ESPN’s dishonest moment

So a few hours ago I blogged about the Mark Ingram interview that appeared on ESPN’s draft coverage.

Well, I’ve actually changed my mind.

Not about Ingram—he was great, and should be praised for the warmth and emotion that shone through at a very big moment in his life. But—thinking about this in more detail, then talking about it with my pal, Michael Lewis—I can’t help by cringe at ESPN’s handling. Suzy Kolber is a pro’s pro, and I generally enjoy her work. But this was just wrong, and manipulative. A guy is drafted into the NFL. It’s a big moment. A huge moment. You line up a post-moment interview—terrific.

Then  you greet him with a letter from his incarcerated father. You read it for the millions watching—a personal moment turned public. He cries. And cries. And cries some more. In the ESPN production booth, everyone cheers. What raw emotion! What spur-of-the-moment grittiness! Great job, Kolber! Great job!

But it’s not a great job. It’s emotional manipulation. You don’t spring this sort of letter upon a 21-year-old kid on national TV. It might make for great viewing, but it’s dishonest, dishonorable and wrong. This is the life he’s been handed—a father behind bars; trying to overcome that and somehow get past it.

He should be celebrated.

Not exploited.