ESPN Blurs Sports, Entertainment

Bobby Curran
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Friday - July 20, 2011
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I suppose it’s a measure of ESPN’s success that the annual ESPY Awards show has many of the trappings of the Oscars. Certainly a huge assortment of stars show up mostly sports notables but some straight out of the mainstream entertainment world. There are the overwrought comedy bits and skits, bantering presenters and state-of-theart graphics.

But you can’t help but notice that ESPN doesn’t just tell the sports stories it has become part of the story. And as an entity, ESPN is quite unabashed about protecting the enterprise. But while the network will relentlessly pursue any story or scandal, it has no reservations clamping down on its journalists when the scandal is closer to home.

Memos go out banning mention of stories that reflect poorly on the network. When baseball announcer Harold Reynolds was fired for sexual harassment, no on-air mention was permitted nor was it to be covered in the ESPN magazine or online. So it has gone with other in-house controversies.

ESPN is big enough to be in the enviable position to make its own rules, but it has tipped the scales far over to entertainment and away from journalism.

* It’s hard to believe that one of the final issues holding up an NFL labor agreement is apparently a rookie wage scale.

It’s surprising, because the current level of player resentment about the salaries paid to each year’s top draft pick has been frequently expressed. When a Matt Stafford or a Sam Bradford is guaranteed $40 million or $50 million without ever having taken a snap, veterans howl and rightly so.

And when the NBA players were in that situation some 20 years ago they gleefully threw the incoming rookies under the bus.

You have to believe that this is just a bargaining chip, because no NFL player is going to miss a game check because of what happens to someone not even in the league yet.

It is quite likely that the labor side wants to tie the rookie scale to free agent eligibility rules, something far closer to the hearts of the union members.

* The excitement generated by the U.S. women’s team in the soccer World Cup has brought up familiar conversations about the impact this notoriety will have on soccer in the U.S.

You’d think by now the answer would be fairly obvious. Americans will watch the finals in large numbers, the players will guest on talk shows, a few will get mid-level endorsement deals and then most of us will forget about soccer until the next time a U.S. team shows promise on the world stage.

Participation in youth soccer remains strong, but interest wanes as kids get older. And the traditional sports garner more interest. It has been ever thus.

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