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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, June 27, 2022
Matt Masterson

Column: ESPN manages to lose more credibility with coverage of Tebow, Collins

The last three days have had their fair share of big moments in the sports world. The NFL Draft was as unpredictable as ever. Steph Curry further cemented his status as one of the best young guards in the NBA against the Nuggets. Washington Wizards center Jason Collins became the first active player in a major American sport to come out as gay.

But if you watched “SportsCenter” Monday morning you would see none of that. All you would see is the ugly, ratings-driven underbelly of the “worldwide leader” that came out in full force after the New York Jets announced they had cut backup to the backup’s backup quarterback, Tim Tebow.

As word came out around 9 a.m., ESPN abandoned all journalistic principles. Legitimate news, such as NBA playoff games or Aaron Rodgers becoming the highest-paid player in the NFL, all immediately took a back seat to this “news.”

I put news in quotation marks here because if any other team had cut its backup quarterback, someone who played on just 7 percent of the snaps for a team that went 6-10, it would not only fail to make the big show itself, but you would probably have trouble finding it on the ESPN website.

Not with Tebow though. On the front page of its site is not only a giant picture of the former Jet QB, but also eight—count ‘em—eight different pieces and interviews on the non-story to end all non-stories.

Should we really be surprised though? These are the same people who gave viewers 24/7 coverage of the Jets training camp last fall and covered Tebow’s birthday with an all-day party of experts and analysts from across the sporting world. Hey, when’s the party for fellow Jet backups David Garrard and Greg McElroy? Never? Oh, OK.

“Awful Announcing,” a twitter account that “puts announcers on notice,” said it took “SportsCenter” 37 minutes out of the 60-minute show to finally discuss a story that didn’t involve Tebow or the Los Angeles Lakers.

It is a sad reflection on the world of sports journalism that we live in. ESPN can play the role of a fair and balanced network for 70, maybe 80 percent of the time, but it’s that last little bit that is the biggest concern. Why put in the time to actually flesh out ideas or arguments when you can just have Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless bicker back and forth for two hours on “First Take” every day?

Back in November, John Koblin of Deadspin.com wrote a story on ESPN’s infatuation with Tebow that opens with a quote from Doug Gottlieb, a basketball analyst who spent nine years with ESPN before leaving for CBS Sports. “I was told specifically, ‘You can’t talk enough Tebow,’” Gottlieb told Dan Patrick on his radio show.

Again, Gottlieb is a basketball analyst, being told he cannot say enough about a backup quarterback who plays a different sport. Instead of striving to give its viewers objective stories, ESPN would rather ignore them in order to grab at anything that can get more clicks on its website or try to fill its seemingly unquenchable thirst for ratings. Even if that story will have about as much impact on next year’s NFL season as whoever was taken with the final pick in Saturday’s draft.

When ESPN finally did get around to discussing the Collins story, it was done with the all the tact you would expect from an entity that has the arrogance to purport itself as the “worldwide leader in sports.”

On “Outside the Lines,” one of the few non-debate formatted shows left on the network, NBA analyst Chris Broussard felt the need to avoid talking about what Collins’ decision meant for sports, and instead decided to bring out the pitchforks against the entire homosexual community.

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“Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals,” Broussard said. “If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.”

Whatever your thoughts on Collins may be, we are living in a day and age where homosexuality is no longer roundly rejected. It is not the 1950s anymore and comments like Broussard's show the “worldwide leader” isn’t really in touch with the world of today. Also, one has to wonder why an NBA analyst is talking about his feelings on homosexuality or the Bible in the first place on a national stage, but I guess that is a question for a different day.

It doesn’t have to be all bad though. While “SportsCenter” and “First Take” may represent the murky depths of the journalistic world, there are others out there who still fight to bring out the best in the sports world. One of those entities is Sports Illustrated.

While ESPN wept over the national tragedy that was Tebow’s release, the people over at SI were busy releasing the aforementioned story on Collins.

It is clear to just about anyone with even the slightest of cognitive abilities that the Collins story is far more newsworthy than anything related to Timothy Richard Tebow. Sadly, though, it seems the term “newsworthy” has become less and less relevant to actual news.

Leave it to the “worldwide leader” to talk a non-story into the ground while bringing out stone-aged insight on the biggest news of the month.

This is Matt’s final column for The Daily Cardinal. He would like to thank his co-workers and management team who allowed him to ramble on through 600 words on a weekly basis and everyone who took the time to ever actually sit down and read through the entirety of one his rants. If you share Matt’s vitriol for ESPN or would like to throw your own criticism at Matt, let him know by emailing him at sports@dailycardinal.com.

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