August 20, 2013 by Cups n Pucks
Nightmare on ESPN Plaza
Despite Midwest weather being pleasantly cool all season, the MLB teams of the Second City have ensured us there will be dog days this summer. The mind bends and twists witnessing such horrors, trying to cope with the abomination of Chicago baseball.
I sat on my couch, watching the Cubs lose yet again as I faded into a numbingly deep sleep. My mind traversed down a similarly dark and winding road, one leading back to a time where hope was bleak for Chicago Blackhawks and NHL fans alike…
…That time was September 2005 and I had just witnessed my first NHL lockout as a dopey, formal thinking teenager. Hockey was my life, 24/7, despite the fact the Chicago Blackhawks checked-out years earlier. So the story goes, and eventually the NHL returned, sans it’s biggest soapbox bullhorn in ESPN. American TV ratings suffered and for a while, my young, hockey-crazed mind wondered if the NHL would ever rebound from losing the biggest sports media outlet in North America.
“But what if ESPN stuck with the NHL?” I always used to beg that question. “Just imagine the possibilities. Where would the state of hockey be now with ESPN?”. My mind raced, calculating potentialities and probabilities as I fell deeper into a dream only Leonardo DiCaprio could pull me out from:
It was the summer of 2010 and something magical was about to happen: Lebron James became a free agent and ESPN gave a Keanu Reeves-esque performance in their version of “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. Thus came original American programming like we’ve never witnessed before: The Decision. “Finally, a 75-minute long masquerade to watch an athlete make a predetermined choice,” said mostly no one. Regardless, people tuned in – a lot of people. A true testament to the branding power ESPN beholds.
My dreamworld darkened, thunder boomed from overhead. Suddenly, my dream had changed: it was becoming a nightmare.
My subconscious raced even faster, spinning out of control: “and to think, the number one sports network could have aired the same “groundbreaking” event BEFORE Lebron with the same charade by televising a Sidney Crosby Decision!” Imagine the NHL’s top talent keeping the sporting world at the edge of their recliners as he discusses his policy on DMV lines and his favorite vanilla flavored foods for a white-knuckling 75-minute experience. Like most athletes, Sidney Crosby’s personality parallels a dirt museum tour (but that doesn’t mean his play on-ice isn’t mesmerizing). Despite his dullness, ESPN would package it and shove it down our throats. I reminisced about a certain 3rd-string New England “Quarterback” in the NFL right now, despite his lack of original thought, or any sort of personality for that matter.
And then my mind lost full control. Just as Gozer allowed the Ghostbusters to choose their destroyer, my deceitful brain bestowed the same fate on me: Tim Tebow broke through the barrier, and menacing thoughts consumed my tormented brain.
For whatever reason, Tim Tebow has thoughts that ESPN finds endlessly fascinating. BUT HE’S SO BORING. He’s a one-dimensional narrow road. Which is fine, he’s supposedly a nice guy. This coverage is not so fine, however, if this is the epicenter of your programming choices. But in my dream, ESPN kind of likes hockey, and they even go as far to obsess over an athlete with actual substance.
If Tebow’s personality resembles a narrow one-way road, Ilya Bryzgalov would be a galaxy full of endless possibilities in an infinitesimal universe. And, similar to Tebow, many question how he’s (for the time being) still in his respective profession. But that would not stop “the worldwide leader in sports” from milking the cow until she’s shriveled-dry, like they’re so good at doing. “Oh, good, another story about this weird man”.
Wait, which athlete were we talking about again?
Back in the nightmare, my protective rationale barrier crumbled, inviting The Stupid to freely roam. With all barriers down, the juggernaut of idiocy overwhelmed me as I envisioned certain ESPN personalities who would “embrace debate” with hockey…
After Skip Bayless’ corpse finished cooling in the pits of Isengard, he was unleashed to wreak havoc on logic in the sporting ecosystem. Now, he was in my dream, killing any remaining sense of well-founded reason. Could you imagine all the productive conversations produced by aimlessly wondering if Patrick Kane betrayed Chicago for New York by wearing a different hat? With ground breaking topics such as this one, how could hockey fans not be well-informed while
My dream had ended. I awoke in a cold sweat, shuddering in the warm summer night as I slowly reflected on my ghastly, lingering horror. My imagined fantasyland turned to a dystopian hell, leaving me to never again question “what if” ESPN continued associating with the NHL. While I’m sure NHL TV ratings would improve, is it really worth the attack on rationale and sanity? Last year ESPN discussed hockey 3% of the time. Here’s hoping that next year it’s zero.