September 26, 2006

ESPN Puts Sports Reporter on Waivers: An interview with the Big Lead sports blog has resulted in Jason Whitlock's ban from all ESPN TV shows. "This was inevitable," the outspoken columnist writes. "ESPN does not tolerate criticism. Sportswriters far more distinguished than yours truly -- Tony Kornheiser, John Feinstein and T.J. Simers -- have been banned/suspended for comments perceived to be detrimental to the World Wide Leader."

posted by rcade to general at 01:58 PM - 27 comments

By posting this story, now you're not allowed to use their internet anymore, rcade. In fact, it may now be worse. At ESPN, they'll threaten and kick out a Whitlock or Kornheiser - but they'll straight murder your blogger ass. ESPN is in charge and they are not nice people. LOCK THE DOOR.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:45 PM on September 26, 2006

I'll give him Kornheiser, but Whitlock has more cred than Feinstein and Simers put together. And he's no Pulitzer bait himself. He does, however, know basic grammar, syntax and flow. I actually like him, even if he lacks imagination sometimes. Problem is, where is he going to go if ESPN cuts him loose? He's way too cerebral for The Best Damn Circle Jerk Period. Maybe he could crack one of the HBO shows.

posted by chicobangs at 02:49 PM on September 26, 2006

"To me, being a contract employee for ESPN did not mean Id surrendered my right to blast the World Wide Leader in Sports," is naive and filled with retardtitude. You're my boss, you pay me, but I reserve the right to BLAST you. I'm falling into a deeper and deeper into a hate hole as far as ESPN is concerned, but I find it hard to pity someone who quits, openly bashes their employer, and pretends to be taking a high and mighty stance against something. He cashed those checks for years, a better offer came a long, and he took it.

posted by 86 at 02:54 PM on September 26, 2006

Wait, 86. He didn't "BLAST" them. He wasn't exactly laudatory of how they managed the Page 2 franchise, but then again, ESPN isn't his primary employer, unless they own the Kansas City Star as well. ESPN is too big a monstrosity in the sports business now to really believe they can suppress all negative thoughts about their various franchises, products and campaigns. I mean, they're owned by the Disney Corporation. When has the Mouse ever fired reporters for cutting too close to the company bone before this? Oh yeah, I guess it has happened.

posted by chicobangs at 03:11 PM on September 26, 2006

He didn't write them love letters either. The things he said about his colleagues were particualarly harsh. I happen to agree with them, but I think you could file those words directed at Lupica and Jackson as "strong bashes". Disirregardlessness, my point was more to the idea that he felt he should be able to retain his right bash his employer. That's what I was calling naive. There are very few employers that will allow you to be openly critical of them (or your colleagues) and keep your job. That is exactly what he was saying... "To me, being a contract employee for ESPN did not mean Id surrendered my right to blast the World Wide Leader in Sports." Am I reading this wrong or did he quit before he was "put on waivers"? By my reading he quit Page2 to move to AOL (and apparently so he could be critical of ESPN), took ESPN to task in a blog interview, was informed that he would not be asked back to do ESPN shows, wrote an article critical of ESPN. And by that timeline I'm finding it hard to fault ESPN here (as much as they suck in general).

posted by 86 at 03:22 PM on September 26, 2006

Okay, yeah, on reread, he did kind of kick Lupica pretty hard. Even if the little twerp does deserve it. And Scoop Jackson, well, the Worldwide Leader needed a "poor man's Stephen A," I guess.

posted by chicobangs at 03:32 PM on September 26, 2006

a "poor man's Stephen A" What in the fuck would that be a pile of molding dogshit?

posted by dusted at 04:13 PM on September 26, 2006

Ref. putting reporter on 'waivers': What would you expect from a sports reporting agency that will keep a stealer of nicknames (Boomer) and the defensive back that went through Pop Warner, high school, college, and into the pros and set the record for the most tackles by a defensive back (1).

posted by Murry at 04:26 PM on September 26, 2006

"To me, being a contract employee for ESPN did not mean Id surrendered my right to blast the World Wide Leader in Sports," is naive and filled with retardtitude. You're my boss, you pay me, but I reserve the right to BLAST you. The problem with your thinking: ESPN hires a bunch of sportswriters from newspapers like Whitlock who keep their existing jobs. This shouldn't buy their silence when ESPN screws up, because it's their other job to point things like that out.

posted by rcade at 05:17 PM on September 26, 2006

Typical corporate mentality,which is also what runs pro sport and I'm afraid the college scene too, not to mention the used to be amateur Olympic movement.

posted by sickleguy at 05:30 PM on September 26, 2006

Seems like general opinion on sites like Spofi and deadspin is against ESPN. Typically this would be met with, "Oh no, not the blogosphere", but it seems like ESPN's audience demo dovetails pretty well with sports sites on the net. Why is Least Common Denominator still ok? Why can't we get rid of the shitty fake reporting and talk radio-caliber "debate" masquerading as programming?

posted by yerfatma at 05:54 PM on September 26, 2006

I am not sure but.....I think Harold Reynolds grabbed his ass too!

posted by DA ASSX3N at 05:56 PM on September 26, 2006

I can't wait until Simmons gets his own site and spends a month ripping ESPN to inaugurate it.

posted by tieguy at 05:57 PM on September 26, 2006

I don't think Spofi is anti-ESPN. Sure, they're the 800-pound gorilla of sports broadcasting, and so they're an easy, slow-moving target, but they actually have some very good people who do quality work, and that work gets recognized here (Kornheiser & Wilbon, both separately and together, get much love on Spofi, as do Ron Jaworski, Chris Mortensen, John Clayton & Michelle Tafoya, and that's just off the top of my head). And Gregg Easterbrook and (especially) Bill Simmons are among the top sportswriters in the country right now. (You're so right, tieguy, and it's only a matter of time.) Shitty fake reporting is what people are used to. You have to train them to want more. You see it all the time with people who sign up to Spofi for the first time. They start by being assholy trolls, then they realize it's much easier to genuinely participate with both eyes and ears, and soon many of them take off the hulk hands while typing, and they become better writers & smarter sports fans, as well as becoming better at winning arguments in every aspect of their lives. ("Before Spofi, my vocabulary was small. Now, it's big.") It's not a knee-jerk reaction to say that while Whitlock may be a bit of a self-promoting poser, his complaints about the Worldwide Leader weren't all that off base, and the network is not better for his not being on it.

posted by chicobangs at 06:13 PM on September 26, 2006

I was about to post a response, but then it dawned on me that I don't really give a rat's ass about Jason Whitlock. Will I really care if he's on or not? No. Just plug in the next talking head on ESPN.

posted by dyams at 06:37 PM on September 26, 2006

Yeah, on the other hand, maybe I'm wrong, and I'm the only one who gives a shit about the quality of my commentary and journalism. I didn't realize it didn't matter. Fucking hell.

posted by chicobangs at 06:52 PM on September 26, 2006

Here, dyams ... since it's all talking heads, I'll set up your very own ESPN: Joe Theismann Mike Lupica Scoop Jackson Jim Rome Stuart Scott Joe Morgan Michael Irvin Enjoy.

posted by wfrazerjr at 07:37 PM on September 26, 2006

He cashed those checks for years, a better offer came a long, and he took it. Why not? Athletes do it all the time.

posted by joromu at 07:54 PM on September 26, 2006

Who needs Whitlock? I can connect with ESPN in a much deeper way. Debt.

posted by YukonGold at 08:05 PM on September 26, 2006

Joe Theismann Mike Lupica Scoop Jackson Jim Rome Stuart Scott Joe Morgan Michael Irvin Quite a list, now that I look at it. Such an array of fascinating journalists. My comment was meant to imply that ESPN will simply plug in another wanna-be comedian or former player with the journalistic integrity of a crayon and continue to be the sports equivalent of Entertainment Tonight. I don't care about the Whitlock's the station trots out every so often because they're surrounded by a bunch of schmucks, from Berman on down. I tune into ESPN to watch games and to get some information, but all I'm constantly bombarded with is idiots in jackets and ties, most of whom seem to be trying to garner more laughs than the next guy. If I want journalism, I'll read. If I want 21st century, dumbed-down entertainment, ESPN is trying to corner the market in that. All they need is Terry Bradshaw, Shannon Sharpe, Deion Sanders, and a few more, and they'll be a bigger joke. Anyone with journalistic integrity probably either avoids ESPN, or gets out of there as soon as they get a good offer. Also, I guess I've never considered the guy sitting there writing about the Clippers/Hawks matchup a serious journalist. They kind of fall into the same category as Deborah Norville.

posted by dyams at 07:27 AM on September 27, 2006

See, that's the problem, dyams. You're painting all these people with the same brush. Like any cable news channel, they have to fill a lot of hours of airtime, and most of the faces on camera doing the reportage are, to varying degrees, jokers and charlatans who belong behind a counter at Carl's Jr. somewhere instead of speaking to millions about the issues of the day. But some of these people are actually quality journalists who are passionate about their work and do it well. Those people are the ones who keep interest in their beats, be it NASCAR, the NFL, the steroid issue, NCAA corruption, or other things. I don't think it's any coincidence that people like Keith Olbermann, Bryant Gumbel and Bob Costas (and more than a few others) have made a successful transition to "actual" news from sports journalism. In fact, I'd go one further. Sports journalism is held to a higher standard, as journalism, than actual news is. With sports, there is always a result. You can't stray too far from the facts, because any attempt at disinformation will all come out in the Sunday wash. It's a subset of reality, and there's much less ambiguity, so it keeps people honest. If Michael Irvin shoots his mouth off about one of his college buddies one week and then they go out and lay an egg later that day, his colleagues on that very same show get to call him out on it immediately. (As you know, this happens every thirteen seconds.) When was the last time you saw, say, Alan Colmes do that to a co-host on one of his "news" shows? To be sure, Jason Whitlock is no Keith Olbermann. But to lump him in with Shannon Sharpe and Joe Morgan is kind of lazy. You are, however, well within your right to not give a shit.

posted by chicobangs at 08:51 AM on September 27, 2006

I'm disappointed to see ESPN dump Whitlock, one of the only newspaper journalists they brought on who I liked. Most of them are empty-headed chatterers like Woody Paige.

posted by rcade at 09:13 AM on September 27, 2006

Well said, Chico, and I agree with what you write. I wasn't, however, meaning to necessarily lump Whitlock in directly with individuals such as Irvin, Sharp, etc., but saying the reason I didn't really care about Whitlock himself getting the boot from ESPN was because of ESPN in general. Most of them are empty-headed chatterers like Woody Paige. Abso-freakin'-lutley.

posted by dyams at 09:18 AM on September 27, 2006

I do not understand the reason for constantly criticizing sports broadcasters. If you do not like what they bring to the table, turn the damn volume down. Keep in mind, that sports journalism is not science, nor does it have life or death consequences, it is merely entertainment. To those who think they are more knowledgeable about the game than Joe Morgan, Sharpe, Theisman, Bradshaw et al are about their respective sports, I say you are sadly mistaken, and again, if it is just their presence or delivery that is annoying you, don't watch or listen. Personally, my day isn't quite right until I've had a cup o' coffee and a Sportscenter fix.

posted by mjkredliner at 09:35 AM on September 27, 2006

You can't turn the volume down and know the spot of the ball because they don't show it on the screen. Regardless of whether the broadcasters know more about football than their audience, it is useless unless they impart that knowledge to their audience. Some of the guys broadcasting actively interfere with the entertainment provided by the game. I have made changes in my television viewing because of them, such as watching NFL Network instead of ESPN. However, I am not going to miss live sporting events because of those fools, I would rather just complain about them.

posted by bperk at 09:55 AM on September 27, 2006

Keep in mind, that sports journalism is not science, nor does it have life or death consequences, it is merely entertainment. Therefore it should be immune from criticism? Because it's entertainment? That doesn't make any sense to me. Criticism of entertainment, both positive and negative, is a centuries-old tradition. Just because a player has performed in a sport at a high level does not automatically qualify him as a high level broadcaster of that sport. They are two different, disparate, skills.

posted by Venicemenace at 10:47 AM on September 27, 2006

I agree, Venice. And I never said it should be immune from criticism. But I think most people's disenchantment about the message stems from them thinking they know more than the messenger. If it is the method or personality that bothers you, then don't listen. Would you willfully listen to, or watch, Jerry Springer? I just think that grousing about a play callers views serve no purpose, and if it is not a 'live event', merely a opinion format show, why watch at all?

posted by mjkredliner at 11:11 AM on September 27, 2006

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