ESPN, which has been bleeding subscribers due to both the changes to the cable business and its own failing business model of ignoring news and highlights in favor of poorly-conceived political talk, has now been forced to lay off over 100 on-air talent employees. The list includes many of the best reporters at the network: NFL reporter Ed Werder, NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, MLB writer Jayson Stark, and virtually the entire NHL reporting team. Baseball Tonight, my favorite show, has now been gutted.
Yet total idiots like Max Kellerman and the various contributors on Around The Horn remain to provide a Greek chorus of support to the leftist agenda. Sure, we won’t get the best hot stove talk around the baseball trade deadline, but we’ll certainly get to hear Kevin Blackistone (who called the national anthem a “war anthem”) opine on the virtues of Caitlyn Jenner, who was last athletically relevant before I was born.
ESPN used to be watchable. It simply isn’t anymore. When I work out, I'll watch virtually anything rather than watching Jemele Hill and Michael Smith babble with the latest Hollywood dolt about Donald Trump. And I’m not the only one.
So why is ESPN pursuing this suicidal strategy? Because they don’t think it’s suicidal. Here’s the reality: the network is pandering to a particular subset of sports viewers. ESPN sees the growing base of the network as more heavily minority and therefore leftist. ESPN has focused heavily on the NBA in recent years – a sport with a massively growing black and Latino fan base, according to Nielsen -- at the expense of sports like hockey, with its overwhelmingly white fan base. For example, in 2012, Sportcenter spent 23.3 percent of its time on the NFL, 19.2 percent of its time on the NBA, 16.8 percent of its time on baseball, and just 2.7 percent of its time on the NHL and 2.1 percent on NASCAR, according to Deadspin. Note the skew toward the NBA here. According to a 2015 Harris poll, here are the most popular sports in America: football (33 percent), baseball (15 percent), college football (10 percent), NASCAR (6 percent), hockey (5 percent) and the NBA (five percent). In other words, ESPN is clearly making a decision based not on broad appeal of particular sports – they’re no longer broadcasting, they’re narrowcasting, focusing on squeezing additional minutes out of what they perceive to be their core audience. This creates a self-fulfilling feedback loop that promotes leftist politics: get good ratings with heavier minority viewers, pander to them with leftist politics, drive away the other viewers, and then double down on what remains. There’s a reason ESPN treated Colin Kaepernick as a hero while the rest of the country saw him as a nincompoop.
But ESPN doesn’t care. ESPN’s public editor, Jim Brady, said that the network would continue pushing politics:
As I wrote in November, the desire to draw a boundary between sports, culture and politics is a fool’s errand….The volume of non-sports content within ESPN’s empire has increased significantly in recent years. Some of that has been driven by the athletes ESPN covers, who have, in recent years, begun to speak more forcefully about societal and political issues. Some of it has resulted from the breakdown of the wall between on-field and off-field activities, thanks to the explosion of social media and proliferation of media sources that make any utterance by any sports figure potential news.
That’s nonsense. Athletes are speaking out more because ESPN cheers them when they do. Brady even admits that ESPN covers non-political matters far more than it did 20 years ago. Brady then turns from discussing on-air ESPN to online properties – but nobody cares about politics in the online properties, other than ESPN.com.
Which, not coincidentally, ran a piece titled “Five poets on the new feminism” on the day before the firings. Yes, really.
One of the poems is dedicated to Asatta Shakur, a terrorist convicted murderer who escaped to Cuba in 1984:
Revolution ain’t a date in a history book
It’s an ivy that thorns
A lily that pricks…
Revolution is the taste of honey
and the revenge of the hive.
And then ESPN wonders why they’re losing viewers and followers?
The left has decided that it is more important to push politics in culture than to maintain a common culture. ESPN is just one symptom of that cultural corruption. But it’s a significant one. RIP, ESPN. I’d come to the funeral, but I’ll be busy watching actual baseball on an actual baseball network like MLB Network.