Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Worldwide Leader?

Some realizations sink in slowly as the aggregate of subtle clues adds up to the larger, troubling whole. Like taking a drink of slightly turned milk. It takes a bit, but the sump of oily slick finish on the surface, faintest waft of acridity as you raise the glass to your mouth, and finally the sour receptors send up the signal and you drop the glass and check the expiration date. That shit had to be out of the grocery store yesterday sucka.

Not to draw too exaggerated a corollary here, but that's kind of the experience I've had lately with (specifically) and ESPN the media phenomenon (in general) now that I think of it. Not to say sour milk, but that the clues of soddenness in thinking and presentation are starting to manifest as the quality of ESPN's product is starting to turn after so many years of excellence. I guess we shouldn't be surprised by this, since the historical record has plenty of examples of the complacency that can be engendered by an unchallenged run at the top. But still, it's sad to see.

ESPN has taken a lot of flack for its lame effort to cash in on the Web 2.0/celebrity culture revenue stream by mashing-up their sports coverage with a pop culture popularity contest in the "Who's More 'Now'" campaign.

But that's only the most obvious, tip-of-the-iceberg example. Real sports fans don't care if Tom Brady is good looking and stylish or that he bangs Gisele and knocks up b-list actresses if he isn't first and foremost an amazing football player. And if, in our shameful moments of giving in to guilty pleasures there's always US Weekly and Perez Hilton to fill the fix. We don't need ESPN peddling low-grade schlock in that department as well.

What we need is ESPN living up to its promise of being 'The Worldwide Leader.' (The more you fail to deliver on that promise, Bristol, the more your proclamation starts to ring like an empty communist tagline ala Kim Jong Il.)

I used to rely on ESPN heavily for my college football coverage. And while they still do some things very well (the weekly ESPNU Podcast, por ejemplo) so much of the meaty coverage has gone pay-per-view and is provided by mealy-mouthed third-party schills (read: Scouts, Inc.) that I just don't know who to trust anymore.

And so, almost imperceptibly, I've started to navigate to other websites before Heresy! Nay! Truth! I will by the first to say it., and, coming up fast with the most-improved-player award, Yahoo! Sports, are officially better sports websites than, both from the navigability/user-experience and content perspectives.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Big Ten Expansion?

Crafty, crafty Jim Delany. SI is reporting the Commish is once again pushing the idea of expanding the Big Ten by one team to 12.

It should be little surprise that revenue is the driving factor (Championship Game = TV Dollars) but there is the added galvanizing factor of the nascent Big Ten Network. (Which is more of the aforementioned 'TV Dollars'.)

Now the Big Ten Network slight of hand becomes clearer - it was all along an elaborate, multi-faceted ruse geared toward an end of expanding the already misnomered and mis-numbered conference. Delany figured he could steamroll all traditional pleas if the economic argument for the Network was stronger.

Quoth Delany: "The broader (the network) is distributed, the more value (expansion) has. We have eight states. With expansion, you could have nine."

Ah. Well if you put it that way....

But does that mean Notre Dame is no longer the preferred target? If it's a ninth state Delaney's after the likely candidates would appear to be Missouri, West Virginia or Louisville (in ascending order of preference by this guy).

Still the Delaney is cracking open the door that was shut in 1999. Delany said of Notre Dame: "There aren't many universities that produce that kind of value."

Wait and see I guess. But the argument should be interesting. There are low of powerful interests that like this conference just the way it is. Ferentz. Carr. The fan bases of Ohio State and Michigan. And the outcome is unclear. Is Delany a visionary taking the progressive move for the advancement of the conference or is this a reckless power grab?