How many times have you heard someone say that they feel guilty for liking the NFL? If you spend time with sports fans who have any grasp of the real world, you’ve inevitably heard it often. I say all the time that loving the NFL makes me feel guilty. My friends say it. Sports radio callers say it. Bill Simmons says it often, when he’s not being suspended or letting his contract run out. Even Jon Stewart says it. (On another note, I miss Jon Stewart already.). But what we all have in common is an inability to break away from the NFL because the product is so damn amazing. They have us by the balls, and they know it. That’s why the owners keep employing Roger Goodell for $45ish million a year — no matter how badly he screws up, as long as he keeps taking the hits and making the league money, they’re happy to keep paying him, because they know that no serious screw up will actually cut into their profit margins.
But you already knew that. But what we often don’t think about is the NFL’s biggest water carrier of an organization: ESPN. Deflategate and they way they’ve handled it has been the best proof of ESPN not actually being based on journalism or fairness, but just bowing down to whoever makes them money. Chris Mortensen was used by the NFL and never corrected his original report or removed the original tweet about 11 of 12 Patriots balls being underinflated, then explained it by saying “Twitter, I’m still trying to figure it out,” even though he has tweeted almost 20,000 times. Then, a week ago, ESPN had Bill Polian and Mortensen on Sportscenter spewing lies about the Pats taping the Rams walkthrough in February 2002, which was an outright lie and got John Tomase in a lot of trouble, irreparably damaging his career. ESPN apologized for that in the middle of the night on their late Sportscenter. The Worldwide leader also swiftly reported that Brady had destroyed his phone, when in reality, based on everything else that we’ve seen and the way Brady defended that claim, I highly doubt that was the truth.
And just because us Pats fans have felt personally offended by DeflateGate, we can’t judge an organization solely based off of how they’ve acted in this case. But with ESPN, there are so, so many more examples of their lack of professionalism in an NFL-esque way. The best source for this information is James Andrew Miller’s book These Guys Have All the Fun. An ESPN worker also stated that one of her female higher-ups told her: “If I had a dollar for every time I was sexually harassed at ESPN, I’d be a millionaire.” Read this Deadspin post for more details.
Believe me, I could go on, but I want to get to the point. Do any small amount of research on your own and you will find tons of examples of ESPN’s ways that strikingly resemble the way the NFL acts, given the holier-than-thou way that both organizations act in so many ways and how strong of a stand they take against certain issues. People may remember Stephen A. Smith’s stupid choice of words regarding a woman’s “responsibility” not to get beaten, but I prefer to remember how ESPN waited for the public reaction to decide whether to suspend him, which is the exact same thing that Roger Goodell does.
And ESPN has us by the balls just like the NFL does. Sure, Fox Sports and NBC Sports and others are competitors… but not really. There’s no network that could match ESPN’s reach into wall to wall coverage and analysis of all sports. And we all know that, because we keep consuming their product. If I need to quickly know what’s going on in the world of sports, I check ESPN’s homepage for a few minutes. I’m guessing you do too.
Am I presenting a solution to this problem? Well, maybe a little, but not much. Just like everyone who says that the NFL has them hooked but they can’t do anything about it, it’s hard to do anything about ESPN having us on the line. There are competitors to ESPN in a way that there aren’t to the NFL in terms of pro football, but are we really gonna stop consuming ESPN’s products? I doubt it. It just sucks that ESPN carries the NFL’s water, and we all know that the latter organization is run without the morals that they should have, but now we have to realize that the former one does as well.