Every Stupid Person Needs ESPN

I have some good news and some bad.

This will be the first post not entirely written by The Good Badger.  Just in case you didn’t know it, that was the bad news.   The good news is, the co-author of this post, Alex Wysocki, is a good friend and an individual who’s at least two standard deviations funnier than the mean.

Alex Wysocki

The topic for this post stems from a conversation the two of us had a couple months back. If caught having this dialogue in public, most guys risk losing their masculinity membership card (which is just a laminated picture of a caveman). Instead of confining this to private discourse, we’ve decided to take a more courageous alternative – nearly anonymous, defamatory, blogging. Oh yeah, and the topic: ESPN is for idiots.

Me: First off, Alex, let me thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to contribute to something that is skimmed through by nearly dozens of people. Also, as previously mentioned, you must feel rather honored that you’re the first person not named Zach Davis to write for zrdavis.com (notice how that wasn’t a question but an assuming statement, no need to respond, we know you’re honored).

So, let’s get into this. How is it exactly that ESPN appeals to the lowest common denominator?

Alex:  Hellooooo World Wide Web!

I’m humbled and honored to be writing for this most prestigious blog. Surely this conversation will alter the lives of the tens and tens of Good Badger followers.

How is it that ESPN appeals to the lowest common denominator you ask?

This is how…

What a wordsmith.

Like most things produced for the masses, (Michael Bay movies, CBS programming, canned meats, Old Navy Performance Fleece) ESPN blows. For some reason they insist on treating every viewer like a 4-year-old with a learning disorder, using gimmicky garbage and ridiculous sensationalism to keep you coming back for more. I tune into ESPN, like most, to watch highlights and check out scores. Unfortunately what I get instead is spoken word poetry from Stuart Scott, NFL “analysts” saying “NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE” like they’re allergic to acronyms, and Dick Vitale screaming incoherently about Duke basketball in July.

Oh, you’re just looking for last nights NBA highlights? We’ll they’ll get to that right after this twenty minute debate over who’s more “Now” . That Billy Jean King bracket was stacked!

It’s impossible to find any original thoughts or opinions on that God forsaken network. It’s just a bunch of over-processed, watered down nonsense being shouted at you by some tool in a hyperbole-laced assault on your senses. BOO-YEAH!

The other night I tuned in looking for the score of the Badgers game, but instead I was subjected to a Tom Renaldi “My Wish” segment about a 13-year-old football player from Montana who survived eight types of cancer only to have terrorists beat him with Kendo sticks until he went blind. But it’s totally cool though; in the end he got to meet Ochocinco!

There are a few people/shows that I can tolerate (at times), but generally speaking, if you enjoy ESPN then you are a MO-RON.

I’ll take this opportunity to get you involved.

Me: I find it hard to intellectually give a reasoned, linear explanation of ESPN’s failings; there are too many aspects to take issue with. Tangential rant(s) will follow.

You hit the nail on the head with the “produced for the masses” bit.  I get the exact same dumbfounded look from people when I say that I don’t like Sportscenter as when I say I didn’t like Transformers.  “DUDE, are you retarded?!  The special effects were unbelievable!  Meghan Fox is totally hot!  Tons of stuff blows up and Meghan Fox is mega hot!” (I generalize that people who like the move Transformers are more prone to use words like “mega”).  If only they could figure a way to combine Meghan Fox, Steven A. Smith, over the top explosions, Lebron James, and Optimus Prime

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people will interpret our ESPN bashing as hating on sports in general.  To clarify, this is just the opposite.  I love sports.  I work in sports, I spend my discretionary money on sports, I pretend like I can play sports, I invent new sports, I’ve even gotten my haircut at Sportclips (never again). We’re not attacking sports, ESPN is.  We’re attacking ESPN in sports’ defense.

Every time Sportscenter trots out another, washed up, former-athlete, “panelist” to regurgitate the content from a teleprompter at a 6th grade reading level, ESPN is testing how much garbage they can dump through your TV screen before you change the channel.  By the time you’ve seen the same narrative repeated by four consecutive shows (wouldn’t it be cheaper just to re-air Pardon the Interruption 4 times?) , your couch is sitting atop a landfill and Woody Paige is stuffing compost in your mailbox.  I realize filling content for a sports network 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, will result in inconsistent levels of quality, but if you can’t find different subject matters for different shows, at least give a new perspective.  Also,  if CNN can require their employees to be literate, ESPN should follow suit.

There are very few personalities left on ESPN who care to educate you anymore.  The Ron Jaworksi’s and Peter Gammons of the world are falling under the shadows of flashy graphics and “sports entertainers” aka clowns aka Lee Corso.  True, the E in ESPN stands for entertainment; maybe what I’m hitting on is a legitimate alternative network to ESPN.  ESPN is the male version of E!  You can hide E! behind a facade of sports, but I know crummy programming when I see it.  The sports network that I’m looking for is closer to the Discovery/HBO region of networks.   It should be both educational and provacative.

Alex, I now request two things of you:

1) An additional “what’s wrong with ESPN” rant and

2) What would our hypothetical Utopian sports network look like?


So earlier today I was watching Sportscenter (strictly for research purposes) and I saw that Cardinals fans gave Mark McGuire a standing ovation in his first puplic appearance since he admitted to using steroids. This was utterly confusing and made me realize something profound…

My hatred lies more with sports fans themselves than with ESPN.

Remember way back to June, 2003, when Sammy Sosa’s bat exploded cork all over the faces of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays infield? (If you dont, I’m amazed you are still reading this.) Yeah, that was something. Sammy explained that he had mistakenly picked up one of his batting practice bats before heading to the plate. He also claimed this was something he had never, ever done before, especially not during his record breaking, Flinstone Vitamin-fueled homerun rampage of the previous few seasons. I assumed this shameful act would send Cubs fans into a Sosa-bashing frenzy. His legacy already tainted by steroid rumors (still only rumors at the time), now the guy was corking his bat too? He was a blatant cheater, and not even a good one. When the drugs stopped working he tried resorting to olde-timey cheating that totally doesnt work, according to, like, physics and stuff.

So where is this story going, you ask? Well I just happened to have tickets to the very next game. So there I am, it’s Sosa’s first plate appearance since the incident, and I’m ready to boo my loins out at this lying, cheating tool. I assumed the 40,000 others in attendance would join me in an opus of hatred that would make Richard Dreyfus proud. You can imagine my surprise when he walked to the plate and receieved an overwhelming standing ovation. I was appalled, and I’m still confused to this day. That’s like you finding out your spouse has been unfaithful for years, and then when you catch her in the act, instead of leaving/berating her, you give her a high five.

I realized something that day, something the Mark McGuire standing ovation reaffirmed for me…Sports fans are dumb.

Statistics? Strategy? Logic? These fancy words mean nothing to Joe Sportsfan. “Curses”, “magic”, and “destiny” are more his speed. Most sports fans live in a world of make-believe. A world where athletes are hero’s deseving of our warship. Don’t bother these people that most pros are simply fast, strong, tall dudes who are often as flawed personally as the worst of us. Fans will turn their heads to the most blatant truths just so they can go on believing the fairy tail.  They can’t just appreciate the game for the competition on the field, they need hollywood storylines and some deep character development to stay interested. I hate to burst your bubble guys, but Tim Tebow is not a comic book hero. He’s just another nerdy, annoying, churchy dude. It just so happens he was a really good college football player too – Though Thom Brennaman would have you believe otherwise (have a puke bucket ready).

As Mr Brenneman so disgustingly displayed, sportscasters on all networks love shoving hyperbole intensive narratives down our throats. In the case of ESPN, I think there are two main reasons why they continue to get away with it:
1) There are a lot of dumb people who eat it up. Like, A LOT.
2) They have no legitamite competition.

The worst part about ESPN is how much time I spend watching it. I’m obviously an extremely busy and important individual, but when im not authoring groundbreaking legislation or negotiating international peace treaties, I enjoy zoning out to touchdowns and alley-oops . The idea of a 24 hour sports network is totally awesome, but for some reason no one has stepped forward to challenge ESPN’s dominance in that department.

FSN/CSN is trash. Their flagship highlight show, Final Sore, is actually pretty decent (and usually poetry free), but I have no idea when it’s on, and it seems to lack a regular time-slot. That’s understandable though, I mean, their current programming schedule is chock full of high school field hockey, English darts championships, and infomercials. That’s a jam-packed line up, and as they say, if it aint broke dont fix it.

Until someone puts a legit alternative on the air I really have no option besides the World Wide Leader in Sports™. It’s not like I’m going to not watch sports.  Sure, there’s the internet, but typing is tedious and God made high-def for a reason.  Plus, laptops give you teste cancer, look it up.

I’m no television executive, but here are a few things my sports network would include…
First off, every market would have their own Local affiliate. ESPN started doing this recently with their ESPN Chicago/New York/Boston websites, but I would take it to the next level. I’m sick of hearing about the AL East, the Dallas Cowboys, or any other team that’s crammed down my cram hole. We lived in Wisconsin for 4 years, home to some of the most passioante sports fans in the country, but once Farve was gone ESPN spent about 6 minutes a year discussing sports from that state. WHAT’S UP LINDA COHN? THE BUCKS AREN’T COOL ENOUGH FOR YOU? HAVE YOU SEEN BRANDON JENNING’S HAIR?

Personnel notes:

  • Kenny Mayne can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
  • Scott Van Pelt needs to check his ego at the door, but I think without the ball-gag that is ESPN censorship he might be hilarious. He’s in.
  • Chris McKendry can come aboard. She’s got an understated sexyness I can’t resist, plus she obviously has a great sense of humor.
  • Barry Melrose can be in charge of the hockey department, simply because I dont know enough about hockey to judge whether or not his analysis is as awesome as his hair. I’ll assume it is.
  • Jake Plummer handles all NFL/Handball analysis
  • Stick with the trend of hot sideline reporters. Erin Andrews and Charissa Thompson come aboard and get raises.

Programming notes:

  • Replace Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, 1st and 10, and Jim Rome is Burning, with ONE SHOW. I dont need 10 different morons giving me the same 20 second opinion on the same issues that I couldn’t care less about. I dont need 10 different sports puppets giving me the same 20 second opinion on the same issues that I care about. Instead put a long form radio-esque talk show on in there place. Get smart, funny, local guys to dissect local issues and give interesting original, relatively uncensored insight.
  • No car racing, poker, pool, bowling, or women’s sports (sorry ladies, but you are boring).
  • More soccer and MMA (not too much more, but these two can’t continue to be ignored).
  • Only extremely important high school sports will be aired (state football championships and such).
    finally, and most importantly, my network will air a good sports trivia show daily. You know, a good one, like, the opposite of Stump the Schwab (Schwab and Stewart Scott were entirely hateable, and the format made it impossible to play along at home). Just straight trivia questions. I’m talking sports Jeopardy, or better yet, sports Cash Cab. And we wont have brain-damaged athletes read the questions (which ruined the otherwise satisfactory Two Minute Drill).

I’m not the smartest sports dude ever. I cant explain the hockey rulebook forward and back, I cant breakdown a zone blocking scheme. But there are people who can, and I want those people to be on TV. I want to learn from those people, I want them to give me a better understanding of the sports I love watching but am not gifted enough to play. I don’t necessarily need 24 hours of chalk-talk, that would be boring, but there has to be something better than what’s offered by ESPN.  I’m sick of the discourse on the sports I love being focused on irrelevant cliches and fabricated stoylines. Keep that stuff where it belongs…like pro wrestling.

The bottom line is that dumb sports fan need to go away. There are too many of you and you’re too easy to please for TV execs to ignore. It’s much easier to make a sports version of  The Hills than it is to do something smart or thought-provoking or deserving of my viewership.

What are your thoughts on sports fans? What would you put on TV?  Have you donated to Haiti yet or are you going to Hell?

Zach: Is there anything left to be said…? (no, but when has that ever slowed me down)

Although, I do think there are enough intelligent humans who enjoy sports for more than the story lines and annoying one-liners to make ZASU (Zach & Alex Sports Universe – yes that’s the best I could come up with) a viable and profitable venture.  Sure ESPN will still be the preferred network for halfwits (which NASCAR has proven is immensely profitable segment of the population) but most of the people I surround myself with share my anti- Chris Berman sentiment.  I think Michael Lewis’ Blindsided and Moneyball type of books are a perfect indicators that literate people do care about sports above and beyond their circus-like qualities.   Dear Mr. Lewis, if you’re reading, and I know you are, this is your open invitation to host your own nightly report on ZASUAll financial issues will be handled by Alex.

Additional Network notes:

  • Erin Andrews becomes the face of the network, literally and figuratively.   Jerry West : NBA Logo, Erin Andrews : ZASU
  • All employees will not only not be restricted, but strongly encouraged to use social media.  (Are you listening Bill Simmons?)
  • Interviews with athletes and coaches will be edited down to include only the non-cliche. Tune to ESPN for Substance-less press conferences.
  • When more than one event is being covered by ZASU simultaneously, you will indicate online which game will be played on your television.  (Too often I’m caught watching the end of some blowout game I care nothing about and by the time they cut to The Bulls my game, we’re already 18 points down.)
  • Our nightly sports highlight show will be a hybrid of Sportscenter (top plays, side menu revealing upcoming highlights, separate specialist panelists for each sport) and Inside the NFL (knowledgeable insight, better behind the scenes coverage, mic’ing the coaches berating their players and refs, copious amounts of slow motion)

Now that the ideas are in place, all we need is a few hundred million dollars, and our dream is realized.

Alex:  Choose the game you want to watch via the internet? Sounds like somone’s been watching too much Demolition Man.

I guess the only thing left to mention is that this whole “ESPN is drunk with power” idea isn’t a new one. There are a bunch of websites that have been ripping on ESPN for years now, and been doing a pretty damn good job. The popularity of sites like Deadspin is proof that there exists a market for an alternative sports network. So, if there are any maverick billionaires reading this who are tired of sports cliches, please get my beeper number from Zach. Let’s make this happen.

Thank you Zach for letting me vent to the world. I love you more than soccer stars love impregnating their teammates’ girlfriends.

Zach:  That’s a lot of love.  Thanks for the impassioned ESPN bashing, Alex.  You’re welcome back to zrdavis.com anytime.  Even more so, thanks to anyone who has actually made it through this entire post.

  • Josh S.

    I hope this ESPN rant reaches the masses. You could try copying it and pasting it to every ESPN.com conversation board, but it would be immediately buried by comments from idiots with names like supergatorfan9603 who can’t believe you mentioned Tim Tebow without referring to the fact that his virgin penis spouts nothing but pure gold and excellence.
    Nevertheless, like any good American, I cannot read a well-written piece of journalism without offering my own uninformed and uninvited commentary:

    1. While not perfect, ESPN radio still offers a superior product to ESPN tv and ESPN.com. Disney knows full well that no one besides 80-year-old men and myself listen to sports talk radio (something I am reminded of every day at work). Because of this, the amount of censorship and athlete worshiping is significantly toned down, leaving room for some actual, helpful, analysis. Furthermore, at least 50% of the programming is local, and most stations can be tuned from anywhere online. This comes in handy when I grow slightly tired of hearing about your “greatest baseball team ever to not win a championship in 102 years and those south-side guys who got lucky” and want to listen to commentary about consistently underperforming Wisconsin teams.

    2. ESPN could improve dramatically by removing one hour of mind-numbing repetition and replacing it with a show written by the guy who started deadspin.com. Although his site lacks some substance and can often be very bias and frustrating, it does offer the unique quality of being highly sinical and quite critical of the sports industry, and more specifically sports media. A humorous “breath of fresh air” can go a long way.

    Thats all I have. Time to go waste my 30 minute lunch break learning about NASCAR and how bad the Nets still are.

  • Mark G.

    My problem with ESPN centers around the mindless hype of all athletes having to do with Nike. They have daily stories worshiping Michael Jordan, even though he has not done a positive thing in well over ten years. But they hype him daily! And of course Tiger Woods and LeBron James, forget about it. It is just all mindless hype, nothing relevant, just moving product for Nike. They are the worst network ever, but they own all the sports..

  • Mystic X

    I will agree, that we mostly tolerate ESPN because it’s the best of a lot that has never offered a serious challenge or alternative.

    One criticism on the column though: while I agree wholeheartedly that sports fans are generally dumb, I’m not sure the Sammy Sosa corking was the best example you could’ve come up with. That seems an example more tailored to a discussion of how people don’t care about the transgressions of their sports figures so long as they perform. I always like to joke about how Knick fans embraced Latrell Sprewell en masse because he put the ball in the basket.

    If anything, those are illustrations of the public’s shaky set of morals, not of their intelligence level. There’s nothing “dumb” (i.e. misinformed, unintelligent, , etc) per se about overlooking a sports figure’s shaky character or cheating.

  • Zach & Alex,

    Definitely agree with most of this. Also, was intending on typing what Josh S. above wrote about ESPN Radio. It’s incredible that so much of their great content is found on the radio. There are better analysts, better thinkings… people that can actually connect one idea to another and really paint a picture. Listening to Gammons (who has left ESPN) or Tim Kurkjian (who is still awesome at ESPN) is fantastic. Listening to John Kruk? Not as fantastic.

    I’m not sure the problem totally lies with ESPN though.

    I kind of want to blame the Sunday Football Pre-Game shows instead. These guys are 1000% less intelligent than your given ESPN chatterbox. Whoever decided that Shannon Sharpe would be great on TV is a complete moron. The fact that it’s WORKING and he still has a job says something about the viewer…or the fact that no other programming can contend with the NFL on Sundays and you either watch Shannon Sharpe do his best Mr. Ed impersonation or you’re stuck with loads of fake laughs and boo-ya’s from FOX or ESPN. (I’m allowed to type run-on’s in comments, right?)

    FYI – NFL Pre-Game / Post-Game guys: We have computers that make special effects, you don’t need to make noises.

    We’d have to do some research, but I feel like when the NFL Pre/Post-game shows went to a goofier bunch, ESPN got a little more ludicrous too. Now the newspapers are going. Everyone is blogging (so do I). Anyone is a journalist. I think mainstream media is just getting less and less professional, they’re trying to appeal to mass consumers and not to people that are legitimately intelligent (see: recent changes at the Wall Street Journal).

    I prefer listening to guys that know what they are talking about. That’s why ESPN’s baseball broadcasts, mostly, have been great since I’ve been stumbling around Earth. Professional guys that have been in the business a long time, know what they’re talking about, and have stories about the old guys.

    Case in point:

    Bill Walton is considered a “terrible” basketball announcer to most people our age and people think he is a joke.


    Bill Walton was one of the greatest big men of all time, is vastly intelligent, has a ton of knowledge about the NBA and its history and is able to inspire people like few can.

    Unfortunately, his jokes aren’t quite good enough and that’s why he’s not an ESPN NBA Broadcaster anymore.

    Good article fellas, please annoy ESPN with it.

  • In this post’s tradition of shorts list I will support Zach and Alex’s sermon of sports salvation with 2 hellacious examples of sports broadcasting.

    1. Jim Rome.
    2. Some sportscenter scrub did a piece comparing the Shipley/McCoy passing connection to skeet shooting, and uttered these words. “McCoy favorite skeet is Jordan Shipley’s” – thank you ESPN

    Subpoint, When ESPN does put their real soccer expert on air (not including Julie Fowdy and Alexie Lalas) it is actually quite insightful and concise.

  • Meghan

    believe it or not, i actually read all of this entry, and good call bringing wysocki on board for this one–it was like being back at 615 N Henry again. while i don’t watch a lot of ESPN (aka i pretty much just watch it whenever the Badgers/Packers/Brewers, etc are on that channel), i definitely agree with the overuse of sensationalized stories–so obnoxious. also, if i have to hear about Tiger Woods being a man-slut anymore on any channel, i’m going to pull my hair out

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  • Zoooma

    ESPN did not read this post. 4 high school football games being aired this weekend (Fri nite & Saturday.) They’re not even on ESPN2. (Doesn’t seem like there’s much of a difference between the two anymore anyway.) It makes me sick. I’m one of those fans who barely cares about college football games where the score is so often 65-52 or 45-3. This high school crap is wrong. Is World’s Strongest Man in the off-season? Couldn’t find any other actual sports competition they could afford? What the heck?!?!

    One more thing ESPN needs: to NEVER let Chris Berman in the booth to do a baseball game. He’s the play-by-play guy?!?!?!?!? He can frickin’ let a whole half inning go by without EVER ONCE calling a pitch. Even many hits and outs are ignored. If you’re not watching and just listening, three outs can occur and you’d never know it until the commercials start. Thankfully he only does a few games a year but good God he is THE WORST.

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