In The Simpsons’ Halloween special Treehouse of Horror III, Bart Simpson finds a Waldo book in the library. He opens it and finds that there’s no “where” in Waldo as you can see below.
Bart then says in reference to the unhidden Waldo, “He’s not even trying anymore.”
That’s how I feel about ESPN’s latest display designed not to entertain or inform, but to treat you—the reader—like an idiot and use your interest in Bryce Harper and the Yankees to generate webhits.
Webhits = advertising dollars and it doesn’t matter how they’re accrued.
You can read the piece entitled “First Pitch: Bryce Harper, future Yankee?” by Andrew Marchand although there’s not much of a point since there’s nothing much to read. In fact, it’s a colossal waste of space.
Harper grew up a Yankee fan.
The Yankees always have the money to go after the players they want.
Harper might want to be a Yankee.
Blah, blah, blah.
Maybe the Yankees will be willing to give Harper Cliff Lee’s old locker from his time as a Yan..kee…um…wait…
Oh. Yeah. Lee didn’t want to sign with the Yankees.
By the time he’s a free agent—if he’s a free agent—Harper might be a mature young man whose first priority is making as much money and/or the best deal possible and signing with the team that provides that rather than indulging in some adolescent fantasy to be a Yankee.
Why did ESPN publish this? I’ll tell you why: There are certain names that generate automatic webhits. Bryce Harper is one. Tim Tebow is another. LeBron James, Billy Beane, Tiger Woods. They’re obvious. ESPN has been a trendsetter in the mania with their market research. It’s not entirely their fault. They’re giving the public what it’s asking for by doling what’s desired—no matter how worthless—to their customers. But while they’re doing this, they can’t call themselves a “sports news” organization and be serious about it. The mixing of athletes and the “reporters” who are supposed to be covering them with objectivity has blurred the line between the two until we’re at the stage where we expect this type of sludge and don’t blink when it’s presented without even a pretense of genuine sports reporting and analysis.
For every quality person they hire to write or broadcast for them they have ten others whose resume is built on faulty premises of having worked in the front office of a team or because they’re a former athlete; whose work is sycophantic, amateurish and designed for public consumption at the expense of legitimate sports news.
I don’t blame Marchand or the ESPN personalities. They’re told what to do, whom to talk about, what to write and are nudged into disagreeing with one another to create “interesting” televised debates.
I guarantee you Marchand was instructed by an editor or a boss that they needed a Harper/Yankees connection in advance of the matchup between Harper’s Nationals and the Yankees in Washington. Of course he could’ve done it a little more smoothly and with less blatancy. But he’s following orders.
It’s not simply a matter of providing content to the public. It’s a matter of providing content to the public that is utterly vapid. Once it’s clear that the webhit accumulation is paramount and all it takes is the inclusion of one of the above-listed names to get what they want, quality work is one of the last things on the checklist before publication. That’s how you wind up with rapidly diminishing credibility and wind up where ESPN is now.
Harper may never see free agency; the Nats might sign him to a 10-year contract sometime next season to prevent just that eventuality; he might not be available to the Yankees; if he is, it’s seven years from now and the Yankees—really—might not be the attraction they are now.
It’s ridiculous to speculate on now.
But none of that matters to ESPN. What matters to ESPN is the number of hits they received and if it was a topic of conversation. Whether or not anyone read, liked, laughed at or believed the story is irrelevant.
If you keep indulging them, they’re going to keep doing it.
It’s a systemic problem and as long as you, the reader, partakes in it, it won’t stop.
But if you like being made into a fool, so be it. Click onto ESPN. They’ll give you what you want. They’ll give you your fix.