Saturday, January 16, 2010

ESPN's conflict of interest

The worldwide leader in sports, ESPN, was not the network that aired Mark McGwire’s first interview. When Mark McGwire came clean (or as clean as he was willing to go) on television, he did so on the MLB Network with Bob Costas.

When Alex Rodriguez admitted to cheating, he was interviewed on ESPN by Peter Gammons. The interview and Gammons were mostly panned by critics since Gammons did not ask probing questions or follow up when necessary.

McGwire and his PR firm, the same firm that represents the reprehensible Bowl Championship Series, learned from A-Rod’s mistakes in admitting PED use. McGwire conducted a full court press with interviews to the AP, multiple newspapers, ESPN (via phone) and concluding with the television interview.

ESPN missed the boat on the steroid era. Their reporters never did any investigative reporting as to how these athletes were achieving these herculean results. Viewers were told countless times that these athletes are not cheating, rather it was an improved nutrition and workout program. The pundits always went back to the line of PEDs “don’t help you hit a fastball.”

No one ever doubted that. If I were to inject beef roids, I wouldn’t suddenly be able to launch moon shots in Yankee Stadium. If you believe that, I might need to confiscate your driver’s license. Where PEDs help baseball players is turning warning track power into home run power. Apparently, Mark McGwire didn’t get that memo by claiming he would have been able too hit all those home runs without the PEDs.

Did ESPN miss the story on purpose? It’s possible. After all, they are both a news gathering organization and partners with many sports when they produce and televise various events. Is it possible to do both and maintain one’s integrity?

It’s doubtful. ESPN’s fortunes were tied to the popularity of baseball. Why put a dark cloud on the sport by reporting that what the public was seeing was a sham? It would ultimately hurt ESPN financially if it was reported that were roids were rampant. Like the ad went, “chicks dig the long ball.” Apparently, everyone dug the long ball and there was no need to find out what caused the long ball.

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