Sports Games! ESPN: the Soap Opera

by bart




In two months, ESPN has lost over one million subscribers. Some say it’s because of their “liberal agenda”, and some say it’s just following the trends of people cutting cable, and I say it’s because they never show any hockey highlights. Whatever the case, ESPN is dying.

I’m fine with this because ESPN died to me a long time ago. It’s not a show about sports anymore, it’s a soap opera.

Soap Opera: a television drama series dealing typically with daily events in the lives of the same group of characters.

At 11AM, you’ll find men arguing with men about other men who they aren’t friends with, who aren’t in the room. This used to be something that men made fun of women for, and it’s called gossip, and it fuels ESPN.

I had something terrible happen to me recently. I checked into a hotel, walked into my room, and the TV was on, and ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption was playing, and the remote had no batteries in it, and the TV had no power button, and the reception desk wasn’t picking up the phone, and I was too tired to go downstairs, so I watched.

Here’s the premise of PTI, a show about sports: Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser go head-to-head arguing about things that sometimes pertain to sports. I was trapped there watching this. Tony and a new guy (Mike was out) debated whether or not someone was out of line when they said that LeBron James’s son was unlucky because he has the pressure of trying to live up to his dad. Cool topic except WHO CARES?!

One of the guys: He was way out of line! You don’t talk about another man’s son!

The other guy: I don’t think he’s out of line! I think he had a right to say what he said!

And so it went, until no decision was made, like all arguments these days, and they moved to the next awful topic. I was watching Kornheiser’s worn out face pretending to care about whatever he’s supposed to be caring about, the life sucked from his bones, and wondering when he would just blow his brains out. What a boring job. Day after day after day, Any good drama? Any NFL players flip out from head trauma and punch an Uber driver or attack their girlfriend? Anyone get caught with drugs? And it’s a world that is ripe for drama. You take young men with brains that are not fully developed, and you throw unreal amounts of money at them, and you hit them in the head a lot, and you make them so freaking famous that they become tractor beams for cameras. All you have to do is sit back and keep rolling. It’s reality TV.

They always have ridiculous hypothetical scenarios in order to waste time.

“What if Mohammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather fought eachother? In their prime? But Mayweather was like…two feet taller…and also weighed more?”

Wilbon: The answer, to me, is obvious — I would pick Mohammad Ali any day of the—

Kornheiser: [Slowly pulls the pin on a grenade. Hugs it to his chest. Looks a his watch.]


“Who would win if Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, instead of being on the tennis court, were at Medieval Times and they fought using only medieval gear? To the death?”

Wilbon: Obviously because Nadal is left handed—

Kornheiser: [Opens up window, crawls out, quietly falls to his death]


Sometimes I like to say that I’m writing a book about my strong-minded Italian-Irish side of the family, called, “Strong Opinions About Things That Don’t Matter”: A record of passionate arguments over trivial details of unimportant things, like where the entire movie “The Princess Bride” was filmed, and not just some of it.

The same book can be written about every single ESPN show.

I would love, just once, for these ESPN guys to gently lay down their entire stack of blue cue cards and say, “This has nothing to do with sports, and I’m sorry for stirring the pot and wasting your time, dear viewer. Please forgive me, and this organization. I mean — I’m not a psychologist! HA! Look at what I’m talking about!”

You have to force disagreement, which is so American. I hate it. It’s American politics, too. Look for disagreements, find where we’re different first. Never agree! Even if you agree, never agree! The show doesn’t work if these two guys agree, so they have to argue—and argue passionately—for pro or con. They must pick each side for each story, however juvenile, however foolish.

Watching this stuff is like watching a late afternoon baseball game in the 8th inning in the middle of July. The announcers just run out of stuff to talk about, and they drone on about so-and-so’s grandson who has a birthday today, and where they can get the best seafood in Boston, until they both fall asleep, and you fall asleep, and the players fall asleep because everyone stopped caring.

I thought I could fall asleep watching this trash, but I couldn’t take it. It really is trash, and it’s making people dumb. I went down to the hotel desk, asked for batteries for the remote, and the woman at the front desk said she’d send someone up. I stepped into the elevator, and the elevator stopped to pick up a dude who worked there. He asked if everything was going okay, and I said, “Actually, my remote doesn’t have any batteries in it.” He came to my room to inspect it, obviously not believing that I knew where batteries went. He stood very close to me while doing this. Then he went away, picked up batteries, knocked on the door, I opened it, and he came right in, put the batteries in, and hung out for a second, standing even more uncomfortably close to me. He left. Fifteen minutes later another guy stopped by the room with batteries. I told him someone already helped me. He looked confused, as if he was the battery guy. So if he was the battery guy, who was the other guy who was standing so close to me, between the beds of the hotel room, gazing into my eyes, showing me how to use a remote?

Now there’s a debate worth having.

He left and I locked the door with all the locks, and like a million other people, I turned off ESPN.