Monday With Caleb: ESPN, Commercial Appeal, and Self-Awareness

Every week I write about something on my mind when it comes to the sports world.

I’d just made it home after a grueling school day. My students had been especially entitled that day, unwilling to do work, and were very happy to share their opinions on the current state of journalism. The conversation stemmed from a question I proposed to the, which was “Should Buzzfeed be as equally respected as the New York Times?” It was meant to push the students to explain in their own words something they thought was self-explanatory. Instead, as the students worked it out on the paper, some of them wrote to the effect that they though Buzzfeed should be more respected, and I almost lost it with them.

I went on a rant about quality over commercial appeal. The Things They Carried vs. Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, Kendrick Lamar vs. Lil’ B, ESPN vs… and at that point I couldn’t find the sports equivalent to Twilight or Buzzfeed. When I got home, I realized ESPN was that equivalent.

I watch ESPN everyday. Sometimes I’ll rewatch the same half hour loop, but this day, at the top of their famous ticker where they generally share breaking news, ESPN had this: BREAKING NEWS, A-ROD SINGLES IN FIRST AT BAT.

In what universe is this breaking news? Yes, Alex Rodriguez is going to be the story line the first month or two of baseball. If he performs well, and the Yankees win, he’ll continue to dominate headlines long after that… but tracking each individual at-bat… in a Spring Training game… ESPN is losing it. A company that is no doubt the leader in sports media, ESPN is succumbing to our insatiable need for updates. The updates we get on the ticker, on Twitter, or even on individual team websites, are becoming less and less important, and while ESPN is simply supplying a demand, it’s slowly deteriorating into a community message board. Shows like First Take, His & Hers, and Sportsnation, are nothing more than opinion-driven bar debate, and truthfully, I absolutely love it, but what does that mean? Should we simply slow down or work harder?

This is bigger than sports. This has to do with the bar we set for ourselves. When we choose commercial appeal over quality work, are we hurting ourselves, or simply admitting Ron Burgundy was a genius? Are we headed down a path that history will later laugh at, or are we “revolutionizing” the media?

I don’t know if I have that answer.


One thought on “Monday With Caleb: ESPN, Commercial Appeal, and Self-Awareness

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  1. In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king. With social media, and the instant-on availability of news. Outfits like ESPN, B/R, and Deadspin crawl over one another to be the first to release the story. Since speed is favored over substance, they have no idea what is newsworthy, but it’s important that they get a higher share of clicks than the other guy. First movers rule the day.


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