Carillon in the role of ombudsman
When I was a little kid, my dream job was to work for ESPN, either as a writer on their website and magazine, or as an on-air personality doing the highlights. Well, little Matt has grown up since then, and in the past few years has had to come to a startling reality: ESPN sucks, and reactionary garbage has replaced good sports journalism.
I know that I should have realized this earlier, what with ESPN’s obsession with the likes of Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel and whoever has done something dumb on social media, but the real dagger came this past year with the most ridiculous, most drawn out, most idiotic scandal I’ve have seen in years: Deflategate.
This past February, the New England Patriots won Super Bowl 49, and quarterback Tom Brady cemented himself as one of the greatest players to ever play football, but it was all overshadowed by the scandal of maybe being aware of letting some air out of the footballs. Brady eventually had his suspension overturned, and the NFL had to go into damage control over the millions that they spent on a phony investigation, but that’s not the focus here. The focus is how ESPN and other major sports networks handle these kinds of scandals, and the way that they drag them out to these incredible degrees, just to fill up airtime on television, or to try to maintain their status as a credible journalistic entity.
What ESPN does in these situations is the last thing that any good journalist should: rampantly speculating. The speculation coming from this debacle was astounding, and lacked any sort of facts to back them up, but that never stopped ESPN. In fact, a report that came out shortly after the January game in which the Patriots were caught, had reporter Chris Mortensen reveal that 11 of the 12 Patriots footballs were deflated by over two pounds each! Ignore the fact that air pressure is measured in PSI (pounds per square inch), but this report was almost immediately debunked just a few weeks later. Despite the fact that this report was proven false by documents in a court of law, Mortensen and ESPN refused to take responsibility for the hasty reporting, and stuck to their guns until Mort finally found out how to delete the tweet (goddamn social media). The lack of responsibility in the world of sports journalism is appalling, and continues to do damage to those that become the targets of ESPN and other major networks.
However, I believe the most egregious behavior that came from this scandal is the fact that ESPN attempted to kill the legacy of one of the great athletes and gentlemen of the most popular game in North America. The same thing is happening to Tom Brady’s counterpart from the past decade and a half, Peyton Manning. Manning has been accused of using HGH to help heal his potentially career-threatening neck injury back in 2011, and once again, the way that ESPN, and other major sporting networks handled it was atrocious. Much like Brady, Manning has been painted by reporters and writers as being the devil, despite all the great things that he has done for this game, without any hard evidence coming out. It’s sad to see that in today’s world of sports journalism, the focus has shifted from the incredible acts of athleticism, and the amazing human-interest stories, to which scandal they can pump up the hardest to get the most airtime out of. Nowadays, it’s more important to get something up as quickly as possible, rather that doing the required work to report a story, and that just kind of sucks all around.