ESPN, what are you doing?
Just when you think the network can’t possibly make any worse of a mess, just when you think it can’t get any more embarrassing, ESPN was rushed from its circus train wreck of a year with yet another self-inflicted wound this week.
The ESPN marriage with the boorish Barstool Sports was over faster than Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. Kardashian broke it off after 72 days with the former Net, which is a lot longer than the one episode Barstool lasted before ESPN President John Skipper pulled the plug on “Barstool Van Talk.”
Skipper said this week he ended the curious Barstool partnership in an effort to “distance our efforts from the Barstool site and its content.” As if Skipper and anyone else at ESPN should have been surprised. Please.
Just to show you how conflicted ESPN is, the network once suspended Bill Simmons for calling Roger Goodell a liar. Yet, ESPN just threw a bunch of money at Barstool, the same brand that sells shirts with a Goodell clown face on them.
See, Barstool is cool and edgy and everything ESPN wants to be. ESPN wants to be all that, wants people to watch it so bad that the network ignored all the offensive things Barstool has said and done in the past, some of which were directed at ESPN’s own employees. ESPN is a big, powerful company, yet somehow it ignored all of its Disney protocols and smart business decision making to rush off to a Las Vegas marriage chapel with Barstool, a company that was built on jokes about sex, race, religion, all masquerading as a comedy site.
Barstool is free to do what it does, it is free to attack female reporters like ESPN’s Sam Ponder and Sarah Spain, and it is free to share images of lewd signs college kids and fratboys bring to football games on Saturdays. But ESPN should have known, should have been more intelligent about the brand it was doing business with. ESPN just suspended Jemele Hill for social media posts, yet signed a contract with a company that publishes rape jokes online.
Quite honestly, we have not seen a bumbling jerk this bad since Steve Martin played one in the movies.
ESPN has acted like a total buffoon the last few weeks in its handling of a number of public embarrassments, from the way it fumbled Hill’s tweets to putting Sergio Dipp and LaVar Ball on live TV to the fantasy football slave auction to Jenn Sterger’s scathing accusations of sexual harassment in Bristol.
Not for nothing, but there was more outrage about ESPN teaming up with Barstool than there seems to be surrounding Sterger’s claims of institutional misogyny in Bristol.
ESPN is making the Knicks and Mets look as well-run as the Navy SEALs. That doesn’t make ESPN bad or evil or worthy of the cord cutting. It just makes ESPN a giant jerk right now.
BALL AND CHAIN
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: LaVar Ball might be annoying and obnoxious and the NBA season is less than a month old, and you’re probably tired of seeing his face and hearing his voice on ESPN hyping his son’s games like a Mayweather match. But there are worse sports dads in the world. Far worse.
This week, we were reminded of that. Look no further than Odell Beckham Sr., who was arrested on pot and gun charges in Texas Wednesday. Ball might be making it tougher for his son Lonzo to play in the NBA, but you know what would be even more difficult for the kid? If LaVar was in jail.
Esports is a thing right now. The Yankees and Mets are both involved in the exploding professional video industry and some think esports can eventually topple NFL as consumption habits evolve.
We’re quite far from that happening, but esports is already catching up to the NFL in off-field, er, off-console incidents. Professional gamer Li Wei Jun lost his contract with the Chinese “League of Legends” team he played for after he live streamed a domestic violence incident this week.
According to a report, Li’s girlfriend complained he is too serious when he plays video games (not to mention he probably doesn’t make his bed or clean his room, either). While the whole thing was being broadcast, Li pushed away his webcam, knocked over a desk, and sounds of a physical altercation and crying can be heard on the video.
Unlike the NFL, which continues to employ abusers, esports leagues are not as tolerant. Newbee, the team Li played for, fired the jerk shortly after.
Anti-Semitism is a thing right now in European football and this week, Lazio fans littered Rome with anti-Semitic stickers that had Anne Frank wearing the jersey of a rival club. This is truly the behavior of people who are much worse than just jerks.
In response, teams staged a moment of silence this week to honor Holocaust victims like Frank.
According to reports, some Juventus fans turned their backs and sang the Italian national anthem instead.
Think about that utter lack of respect, that mortifying, disgusting behavior, and now ask yourself just how offensive a non-violent, silent and respectful protest during the national anthem really is.
PANTS ON FIRE
You know how you can tell if a football coach is lying? See if his lips are moving.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was so desperate to deflect the Colin Kaepernick questions that have become common for teams who lose a quarterback to injury, he just made up a reason out of thin air why he isn’t pursuing the polarizing QB this week. Instead of being truthful, Arians was a jerk and flat-out lied when he said, “We’ve never had more than two on our roster since I’ve been here.”
Except Arizona has carried three QBs in all but one of the five years Arians has been coach.
UNEQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER
Finally, Cam Newton didn’t like a question a male reporter asked about his offense this week, so he just stormed out of the room. It’s not a high crime to be sensitive and not want to speak to the media, but what makes Newton such a jerk is that if it were a female reporter, he probably would have stuck around. And made fun of her.