Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Smokin' Some Ombudsman

OK, I want to talk about Signing Day, and I want to talk Iowa hoops, but I have to address this article by ESPN ombudsman George Solomon.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Mr. Solomon's work for The Worldwide Leader, he basically comes out of a cave once a month to respond to reader/viewer praise and criticism of ESPN's coverage of...well...everything. His "ombudsman" title is meant to convey that he is above reproach for any criticism of the network/website/multinational Disney-fed conglomerate juggernaut. He is supposed to be a liaison between the public and the press. Unfortunately, he's little more than a shill for ESPN, criticizing TWWL's over-the-top coverage of everything under the sun in only the most nuanced and subtle language possible.* He praised ESPN's putrid coverage of the World Cup, defended its decision to place GameDay where the ABC game was played (and not at the best game of the week), and actually found a way to criticize THE REST OF THE MEDIA for the ridiculous firing of Harold Reynolds (especially when you consider the light treatment of Irvin, Salisbury, and Tirico). I have gotten to the point where I read his articles only to feed my inner rage and marvel at the hypocricy and myopia that pervades the behemoth.

Today's article might be the worst yet. This passage sums it up pretty well:

"Dungy and Smith clearly were the No. 1 story line of Super Bowl week -- a fact that obviously irritated some viewers who believed it was overdone. ESPN commentator Michael Irvin, however, put the subject in context after the Colts' 29-17 victory over the Bears, noting on SportsCenter, "I couldn't be prouder of Tony Dungy ... and I'd like to look ahead to the time when such an event is not monumental."

That time, however, has not yet arrived and ESPN's coverage of the race issue was generally all-encompassing, smart and creative."
You see? Do you see what's going on here? IT'S ONLY MONUMENTAL BECAUSE YOU SAY IT'S MONUMENTAL! Bizzare as it may seem, ESPN still sees itself as a reporter of sports news, not a creator of sports news. But by talking about the race issue day and night, by incessantly dwelling on the "black head coach" angle, Michael Irvin makes it an issue. Tom Jackson, Chris Berman, and Steve Young make it an issue. ESPN makes it an issue. After all, who else even has the audience or the financial where-with-all to set the storyline for the Super Bowl?

The idea that ESPN is merely a documenter of the games we play and the culture we live in is patently absurd. One SportsCenter lead, or front page story, changes the conversation. And so, when the entire two weeks leading to the game are filled with feature stories about Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy and their "monumental" accomplishment, that becomes the story. I will be the first to admit I know virtually nothing about the history of race in the NFL (and I didn't learn anything in the past two weeks, ironically enough), but the idea that this is culturally important on a larger level is pretty much absurd. Furthermore, the idea that the typical American man is so prejudiced that he didn't believe these guys could coach based solely on the color of there skin - the basic underlying premise of ESPN's angle on this non-story - is insulting. And The Worldwide Leader - George Solomon included - should be ashamed of itself for making it what it was. They didn't report the news. They made it.

* - Of course, in order to feed the image that Solomon is actually critical of the network, his archive summarizes his thoughts in much more forceful, and sometimes contradictory, language.


Run Up The Score! said...

Very nice summary. Funny how they're either completely self-enamored with their domination of the American sports media, or conveniently unaware that they create the stories.

Craig Edwards said...
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