If you watched ESPN at all this past weekend, then you probably noticed that the network is filming a lot of its regular programming from Disneyland, as part of its super-mega-bigtime-thingy, "ESPN: The Weekend". This stuff is just a total bummer. Ever since ESPN and ABC and their family of networks became linked with Disney, the group has been giving each other the reach around at every turn. It's bad enough that sports have become so completely controlled by corporate sponsorship, with everything from bowl games to arenas and stadiums (more on that in a minute) to individual segments of programming brought to you by someone or something, but now the entire network has become an infomercial for Disney and its loathsome theme parks. I know it's only a weekend, but the corporatization of ESPN has been bothering me more and more lately and it sucks that they are still the only real outlet for sports information on television. Really? The NFL Live crew with the Country Bears? Really? Leave it out already.
I know that FOX has made inroads into a piece of the sports pie, but the truth is that ESPN has a virtual monopoly on what the average television viewer sees and hears about sports. Plus, I don't really need NewsCorp competing with Disney when I'm looking for a little less corporate interference in my sports programming. The problem with ESPN is that they that are to televison what Taco Bell is to fast food. Taco Bell has an advantage over Burger King and Wendy's and McDonalds because they have crappy Mexican(ish) food instead of crappy burgers and fries. They succeed in their uniqueness among the average fat-ass American. Likewise, ESPN is the sports network. They offer the same type of shoddy coverage and analysis that news networks like CNN, Fox News and MS-NBC do, but they are unique in the fact that they are talking about sports. You're still getting fat on fluff and argument, but they have nacho cheese sauce covering their programs instead of ketchup.
Don't get me wrong, there are programs on ESPN that I enjoy a great deal. Obviously they air the majority of live action, which is like oxygen for me, but I also like the glimmer of real insight from sports writers on Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption. And what is life without highlights? Thus making Sports Center another must. Aside from that, do I really need a steady diet of Roger Clemens and the NFL? I need ESPN as much as I dislike it, but the things I dislike are starting to really get under my skin. The NFL coverage in particular is so blanketing and overwhelming that sometimes I forget that they have an off-season. The aforementioned NFL Live, a daily dose of pro-football info and analysis, is on every single day year round. No other sport gets this kind of commitment from the network and it turns out that the NFL started its own network so I wouldn't have to deal with this sort of thing. How about instead of five reports during Sports Center about NFL free agency I get more than three minutes three days a week on the NHL?
I'm not huge on hockey, but maybe I'd like it more if I actually heard someone other than Barry Melrose and Steve Levy talk about it every once in a while. Oh that's right, ESPN doesn't show hockey games anymore, so the sport doesn't warrant coverage. And what's that you say? ABC/ESPN picked up NASCAR again? Now I know why ESPN created a show dedicated to a "sport" where southerners with high-pitched voices make left-hand turns for three hours. And as a side note, why is Brad Daugherty a NASCAR analyst all of the sudden? I guess the network needed a little on-air color to dissuade viewers from thinking that only rednecks watch racing. Nothing against Daugherty's heritage, but this is how I remember him best, so I thought maybe they'd have him talking about hoops.
I'm too fired up about this stuff. I could write a book on what's wrong with ESPN, but even I'm getting bored at this point, so I'll shift topics for the sake of my audience. I have an audience right? Anybody? Oh well, in other news...
More corporate bullshit, this time on the diamond. The famed Wrigley Field, which even the most casual of sports fans probably associates the most with tradition and the good old days of sports in America, could be coming up on a new name, now that the Tribune Company (who owns the Cubs and their ballpark) is considering allowing corporate sponsorship of one of the most historic venues in American sports. I simply can't stomach hearing Wrigley associated with a sponsor. First the Boston Garden is torn down and replaced by the criminally labeled TD Banknorth Garden, and now Wrigley's name must be sullied as well? If I have to hear about the green ivy along the outfield walls of "Wrigley Field at Gatorade Park" or "The US Navy's Wrigley Field" I'm going to vomit all over the place. Please say this doesn't happen, simply for the sake of my carpet.
Today brought news that Brett Favre will be retiring from the NFL after 17 amazing seasons that have left him the all-time leader in nearly every statistical category for quarterbacks and a Superbowl Champion. Favre is a truly one-of-a-kind athlete and the NFL will be worse off now that the gunslinger will no longer be running out of the tunnel at Lambeau. He brought a level of competitiveness that never interfered with his playful attitude, leaving him the acme of respect in a league that is all about legacy and pride. No one can ever take away what Favre brought to the league, from the Packers' incredible play during his prime all the way up to this past year's heroics, when he led a team of young and inexperienced talent to the NFC championship and a frozen field-goal kick away from the Superbowl. Now begins the unrelenting conversation about whether or not he is the best QB of all time, which in my opinion, he is not. He leads all quarterbacks in all of the important categories (including unfortunately, interceptions) but I still think that Joe Montana is the be-all and end-all when it comes to QB's, with Tom Brady tight on his heels to take the title away. Good luck filling some gigantic-ass shoes in Green Bay Aaron Rodgers. I do not envy the shadow you will have to throw out of for the next few years.