Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Sports (Self) Center

The news on Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick's indictment (his Marion Barry-type defense: "Bichon frise set me up!") creates an interesting irony. In its story this week on the decline of ESPN's Sportscenter -- especially given the upcoming departure of network anchor-institution Dan Patrick -- Newsweek notes:

ESPN's lucrative partnerships with the NFL, the NBA, MLB and NASCAR, among others, have put its news operation, and "SportsCenter" in particular, in a unique bind. "Imagine The New York Times owning half of the Broadway theaters whose plays it reviews. Or imagine CNN paying billions of dollars for exclusive ... rights to cover the War in Iraq," wrote ESPN's own ombudsman, Le Anne Schreiber, in a May 10 Web column titled "At ESPN, Conflict of Interest Is Business as Usual." It has led to the occasional gaffe, like ESPN's decision to cancel its well-regarded drama "Playmakers" after the NFL complained about the show.
"Playmakers" ran for one 12-episode season four years ago. Unfortunately, the NFL pressured the network to kill it, charging that the fictional show reflected poorly on the real NFL. It featured players engaged in illict affairs, spousal abuse, drugs -- and one of them came out as gay too (sort of "Footballers Wives" without the accents).

Of course, in just the last year, there have 13 arrests of Cincinnati Bengals players (admittedly, Chris Henry was nabbed four times); over a two-year period, Tennessee Titan "Pacman" Jones has been
arrested multiple times and has been suspended for half of next season, Chicago Bears' Tank Johnson spent time in jail on weapons charges (and subsequently got released by the team after speeding) -- and now Michael Vick is under indictment for dogfighting.

Bring back "Playmakers", ESPN! It's far tamer than anything that's really happening in the National Football League.

On the other hand, maybe the network thinks such a show would only be redundant at this point.

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