Outgoing Ombudsman Leaves ESPN Much To Consider
Her two-year assignment as ESPN's ombudsman now complete, Le Anne Schreiber wrote a farewell column this week in which she recapped the sentiments of those who made their feelings known during her tenure.
The result of her "search for the taproot of discontent" within the roughly 30,000 messages, she wrote, is "Make it stop. Please. It's too much."
The author and former sports editor of The New York Times found egotism and excess were the primary beefs of a loyal audience that is "sounding a potentially empire-saving alarm."
"Arrogance," said Schreiber, was the word that first came to mind in her quest to find the taproot. It appears many in the ESPN talent stable are perceived to be of the belief that viewers tune in to watch them as much as the games and headlines they're reporting on.
Wrote Schreiber: " ...Accusations of arrogance were implicit in the many complaints I received about specific anchors who imposed their personalities on the news, announcers who elevated their own chatter over the game at hand, commentators who leapt to the absolute in a single shout, columnists who heaped scorn on minor sports or minor markets, and the relentless corporate 'me, me, me' of multi-platform cross-promotion."
Schreiber also conceded ESPN executives and personalities have been resistant to fan criticism of overkill. Whether it's Manny, A-Rod and T.O., or the Red Sox, Yankees and Cowboys, the ombudsman was compelled to conclude, "The predictable day-after-day dominance on ESPN of certain marquee teams and players is making a lot of fans both heartsick and cynical."
Perhaps most telling is the message Schreiber received from a onetime admirer of the recently retired Brett Favre.
"Favre was one of my favorite players in the NFL," wrote a fan from Kansas City. "Now I'm just sick of hearing about him."
We don't know who Schreiber's successor will be, but we can only hope he/she stays on the case with the same diligence. ESPN is so omnipresent that it does itself and its audiences a disservice by enabling its anchors to overindulge in themselves and the tabloid aspects of sport.
The fans have spoken. Will ESPN listen?
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