Perhaps we expect better from ESPN because it’s a 24/7 sports network, the last place we’d think would wreck every sport it touches.
Yet, here we are. Again, and still. To tune to ESPN to watch a live sports event is to be conditioned — air-conditioned — to anticipate a production that will challenge the good senses to a duel the good senses can’t win.
Consider what ESPN has done to big-league baseball:
For 21 years ESPN’s lead analyst was former Houston and Cincinnati star second baseman Joe Morgan. Thus viewers were forced to suffer his nonsensical analysis and historical “facts” that in fact were extraordinarily rotten guesswork.
Morgan’s contradictions came quickly and often. He once complimented Manny Ramirez for taking a pitch “he knew he couldn’t hit.” Two pitches later he claimed Ramirez “can handle any pitch.”
Morgan told doozies. He said that when he was with Houston he contributed to the Phillies’ historic late-season 1964 collapse — 10 straight losses near the end of the season to finish in second place — when he ended a game with an RBI single.
He further recalled that Phils manager Gene Mauch was so livid he screamed that his club was just “beaten by a little leaguer!” Great story!
But Houston didn’t play Philly during that stretch, and Morgan, a late call-up, did not have an RBI in ’64.
In a Mets-Cubs game, Mets infielder Luis Castillo struggled to catch a fly in the wind that invades Wrigley Field. To a national audience, Morgan explained why:
“Castillo has played his entire career in the AL,” with the Twins, thus was unaccustomed to the vagaries of playing in Wrigley.
But Castillo had played 10 years in the NL, all with the Marlins, then two with the Twins. Not only had he often played in Wrigley, he hit the infamous foul fly that was about to be caught by the Cubs’ Moises Alou until spectator Steve Bartman reached out to alter its path.
That historic eighth-inning episode allowed Florida to win Game 6 in a late comeback then defeat the Cubs, four games to three, in the NLCS.
ESPN, by then realizing that Morgan manufactured facts, promised he would make good on his factual errors, but he obdurately refused, according to ESPN authorities.
Now ESPN presents “Sunday Night Baseball” as a three-plus hours Alex Rodriguez nonsense and contradictions festival.
Did it matter that ESPN had hired an infamous, suspended drug cheat whose half-a-billion dollars in career salary was predicated on illegal drug use and steady lies about it?
Did it matter that team sport advocate Rodriguez spent a playoff game trying to pick up young, attractive women in Yankee Stadium?
Did it matter to ESPN that in hiring Rodriguez as its face and voice of MLB was an insult to all decent-minded baseball fans?
For some reason, Rodriguez became ESPN’s ideal to weekly address the nation on all matters of baseball.
Last year, Rodriguez drove viewers crazy with such repeated claims that even-numbered leads are better than odd-numbered leads. He didn’t explain why it was better for teams to be up 6-2 than 7-2.
The season before he claimed he very nearly signed with the Mets — and wishes he had — but instead chose the Rangers. The $150 million more Texas offered he never mentioned, and the next day former Mets executives claimed Rodriguez was full of it.
This past Sunday, the telecast noted that MLB batters are hitting a collective .241, the lowest since 1968. That inspired Rodriguez to conclude that baseball “has become a democratic game” thus it’s “now more fun to watch.” Huh? Double-huh? Yes, now every batter strikes out trying to hit home runs! Ain’t it fun?
Like Morgan, if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, why should we?
But this is ESPN’s answer to what it thinks we want, what we can’t wait for and beg for more. Those who do the hiring don’t know bad from worse. Within a pandemic, it’s a continuing epidemic.
Kobe slur at ref didn’t get the Thom treatment
So after 25 years of honorable service to Fox Sports, Thom Brennaman has been past-tensed for one off-air, live-microphone slip — a slur word for homosexuals. Inexcusable yet forgivable, no?
Compare that to Kobe Bryant, who in 2011 directed a loud, on-court homophobic slur toward a black NBA ref.
Bryant was fined by the league but never lost a day of Lakers’ pay or play. The NBA, fans and media quickly forgave him — if they even cared — and his multimillion dollar benefactors at socially conscious Nike played dumb.
And within the thousands of public tributes issued following Bryant’s tragic death, fewer than few noted that episode. No one on-air with Fox mentioned it.
Both Bryant and Brennaman apologized, but only one was forgiven — and so quickly it became quickly forgotten.
Stats? You like stats? Try these:
Reader Richard T. Monahan notes Tony Gwynn averaged 29 strikeouts per season, and current No. 1 superstar Mike Trout averages 152 per.
Thursday, in 14 innings — two seven-inning games — the Phillies struck out 20 times against nine Blue Jays pitchers.
The Mets lead the majors with an average of 18 per game left on base, a staggering stat that equates to two per inning! Damn the circumstances, full swings ahead!
Jonathan Villar, this year employed by the Marlins as their leadoff batter — he has thus far struck out three times in each of two games — last year struck out 176 times in 162 games for the Orioles as their leadoff man.
Last week, in the game in which DJ LeMahieu was hurt, he made an out, leading ESPN to reduce the Yankees’ “win probability” from 73.7 percent to 71.7 percent. Nurse!
Isles team getting it done
Couldn’t ask for better from a TV team than MSG’s Brendan Burke and Butch Goring throughout the Islanders five-game playoff series win vs. the Capitals. Alert, candid, informative, no hokey hockey gimmicks — and all off TV monitors from a studio.
So home plate ump Ryan Additon was wearing a COVID mask beneath his mask when up stepped the Yankees’ Luke Voit, who, a few feet away, spit on the ground, in violation of MLB’s no-spit directive. On YES, we couldn’t miss it, but the three announcers all apparently did.
Figures ESPN would continue to promote grammar-bereft Keyshawn Johnson, remembered as “Me-Shawn” for his “just throw me the damned ball!” boasts. When he was a Jets wide receiver he jealously dismissed the achievements of overachieving, undersized, undrafted WR Wayne Chrebet, calling him “the team mascot.”
Padres outfielder Tommy Pham has been lost to what the team described as “a broken hamate bone.” Reader Bill Fariello figures that to describe it as “a fracture in his hand” would have been too confusing.