Lord knows, Stewart Mandel has made for a convenient foil on more than one occasion here at the blog, but the idea that ninety-second clips of Skip Bayless pontificating on any subject have more perceived value to Fox Sports than Bruce Feldman’s college football insight is nauseating.
This is what I was getting at in yesterday’s post about ESPN’s business model. Those of you who insist on getting wrapped up in the bullshit about Mickey embracing liberal politics are missing the real point. Irritating blather has value to these people. It’s not about left or right; it’s about providing a platform for pundits to say something outrageous enough to make the average viewer want to pay attention.
Live sports may be what drives the train for most of us, but apparently there’s marginal value in insulting the intelligence of some part of the viewership. While that may be profoundly depressing to those of us who are rational beings, you can’t argue with the reality that these are the bets these media giants are making. After all, we live in a world where they keep spinning off “Housewives of XXX” like there’s no tomorrow, because there’s a reliably profitable viewership out there. Why should we think the sports world — professional wrestling, anyone? — is immune to that?
I’m not trying to argue that to some extent the media hasn’t brought this on itself. I mocked this development at the time, but since then it’s taken on a certain canary in the coal mine aspect that now seems as inevitable as it is sad.
Make no mistake, though. The public is complicit, too. Fox and ESPN are giving us what they are convinced we want, or at least enough of us want, such that it makes it worth their while to debase their product. I’d like to believe they’ve lost their way, but the saddest point of all is that I can’t help but concede the merit of their cynicism.
Enjoy what’s left of actual sports journalism. It’s hard to see a robust future for it.