I never thought that ESPN could surprise me again.
It's no secret to any sports fan with a pulse that the Worldwide Leader in pro football, baseball, and basketball has a bias towards the East Coast. It's more of a joke at this point.
Ever hear of the Eastern Seaboard Promotional Network? How about Every Sports Personality in New England? These are fairly common references to the sports media giant in places outside of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
Yet somehow, I still managed to be shocked and dismayed by their treatment of Game 5 between the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics.
Sure, I knew that ESPN would talk about how clutch the Celtic's Paul Pierce was and how great his team mate, Rajon Rondo played. Pierce was fantastic in the game's waning minutes and Rondo has definitely emerged as a star in this series.
I also noticed how the articles summarized the game as a local announcer would in recapping their team's performance. It was cheerleading, but it was also to be expected.
However, when I read through the various articles on ESPN.com, I couldn't help but notice a lack in coverage of the final moments in the game.
You know, the part where Rajon Rondo essentially punched and clotheslined Bulls center Brad Miller as he went in for a layup with only a few seconds left in overtime. This WWE werestling move drew copious amounts of blood, which Miller proceeded to leak into a towel after the play, no steel chair or bar wire cage necessary.
This was also the part where the referees essentially took the game away from the Bulls by not giving Rondo a flagrant foul for not even remotely attempting to go for the ball.
Let's see now: Smacking someone in the face, drawing a LOT of blood, not going for the ball, bringing the player to the ground...yes, that sounds like a flagrant foul to me.
Now I probably should've prefaced this column by stating that I don't really have much of a stake in the Bulls. I'm a Chicago sports fan, but I haven't really cared about the Bulls since the Championship years. Call me a bandwagon jumper or a homer, but this series has rekindled a small amount of interest in my once beloved team.
Still, I'm not really concerned about the loss. I'm not even that mad about the WAY in which the Bulls lost. I could say that if the foul had been ruled flagrant, Miller (an 82 percent free throw shooter during the regular season) might have made the second shot and the Bulls would've had the ball and a chance to win with two seconds left.
But that's not exactly a nagging question mark in my mind. Miller looked so dazed at the free throw line that he could easily have missed both shots unintentionally (as opposed to intentionally missing the second shot, which he had to do in order to try and get the ball back).
Unfortunately for Bulls fans, the game wasn't won or lost on that one shot. Del Negro's substitutions and timeout usage were mediocre at best. More Tyrus Thomas, less Brad Miller please. Ben Gordon's shot selection and, more importantly, his continued desire to fire up shots while he was stone cold doomed the Bulls down the stretch.
I don't mind all of that though, or even the fact that the referees blatantly blew the call when it counted. Tim Donaghy jokes aside, the refs simply got that one wrong.
What bothers me was the fact that when I woke up this morning, finished my two-and-a-half-hour commute to the office and checked ESPN.com for coverage of the game, I found articles plastered all over their website about what a great performance it was by the Celtics without mentioning anything regarding the Miller foul and how in a game that was so close, as every game has been between these two teams, that call, in that moment, cost the Bulls the game.
Furthermore, the main page article actually seemed as though it was written by a Celtics fan, FOR Celtics fans.
Even the title of this front-page: "Truth Hurts...So Good," smacks of a nod to how the Celtics got away with one. Yes, Paul Pierce is nicknamed "The Truth." But the oh-so-clever double meaning here doesn't come from Pierce's shooting ability or John Salmon's wounded pride at allowing such clutch scoring by the Celtics star.
It comes from "truth" being that the Celtics are apparently better than "those pesky Bulls" as the article called them and the "Hurt" comes from Brad Miller getting clotheslined.
Really? Pesky? Why not just preface the Celtics with the word "amazing" and the Bulls with "annoying" for making this a series? Putting an adjective to the Bulls like "pesky" implies bias, even if it might be meant as a pat on the head to the little kid that learned how to tie his shoe. Either way, it's insulting.
The title of the article, when taken in context, is giving a backhanded shot at the Bulls while continuing to perpetuate their East Coast biased "reporting." Now I've accepted the fact that ESPN will talk about the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Mets, the Patriots, the Jets (really, no one cares that they traded up for Sanchez two, three, or four days after the fact but Jets fans), the Celtics, the Phillies, etc., ad-nauseum.
For example, it only makes sense that you'd hear more than you ever thought you wanted to know about the Red Sox and Yankees when you have former Boston Globe writer Peter Gammons and Tim Kurkjian, the author of "Is This a Great Game or What: From A-Rod's Heart to Zim's Head," as two of the venerable mainstays on ESPN's Baseball Tonight.
But when ESPN decides to put a title like "Truth Hurts...So Good" next to an article about the Bulls/Celtics travesty, essentially rubbing it in the face of "those pesky Bulls" and their fans while only extolling the virtues of the Celtics (you know, virtues like Kevin Garnett's classless trash talking at the Bulls bench after they sealed the victory in spite of the fact that he contributed nothing to the actual outcome) in a game that was essentially decided by bad refereeing...it only makes me wonder if anyone at ESPN has even the smallest shred of journalistic integrity.
A few years ago, a movie was released about Fox News entitled "Outfoxed," which featured former employees of the news network talking about how the marching orders for conservative programming came from the top.
I know that putting sports journalism in the same topic of conversation with news journalism is like putting Brittney Spears in the same conversation on humanitarianism with Mother Theresa, but I have to wonder if ESPN's blatant bias comes from the top like "Outfoxed" proposes for the Fox News network.
I don't care that the Bulls lost. It's only Game 5 and to be honest, I'm a hockey guy at heart. This is actually the first (and probably the only) article I've written on a team in Chicago other than the Blackhawks for Bleacher Report. But I didn't even intend to write this rant about the Bulls specifically.
The fact of the matter is that ESPN's borderline disgraceful coverage of pro sports has reached a new low today, and I for one am beyond tired of their continued insulting of both teams and fans of those teams in cities not located in the northeastern part of this country.
Everyone knows that this bias exists, yet no one seems to be willing to call ESPN out and take them to task. Maybe no one else cares. Conservatives need their Fox News because there's so much liberalism in the media today. That's fine, I get that opinion. But ESPN isn't simply for people on the East Coast. This isn't one network in a sea of other networks that provide a different view on the world the way that CNN, MSNBC, CBS, etc. does for news journalism.
For every Boston Globe, there's an Atlanta Journal Constitution, a Dallas Morning News and a Seattle Post Intelligencer.
But the self-professed World Wide Leader in Sports has essentially taken over the landscape of sports journalism in the last 20 plus years, and as a fan of sports in the Midwest, I am at my wit's end with ESPN's coverage.
Their coverage not only includes an abundance of East Coast teams (I honestly can't remember when they've had a baseball game on that didn't have at least one team from the East Coast), but the stories on these teams that are perpetually shoved down America's collective throats, from interviews to recaps, actually seem to come from the perspective of the fans of those teams!
We get that Mark Sanchez has a lot of potential for the Jets. We get that Tom Brady's injury is a substantial loss to the Patriots. We understand that Alex Rodriguez steroid abuse several years ago is yet another black eye on baseball. We see why Phillies fans should rejoice at World Series victory. Curt Schilling's bloody sock certainly is the stuff of big league legend.
But in the endless ocean of East Coast glory stories, their lies, deep beneath the surface, thousands of other stories that are no less important to fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Colorado Rockies, the Cleveland Browns, or dare I say, the St. Louis Blues.
Now, the "why ESPN hates hockey" rant is one that I'll save for another day, along with the "why ESPN calls themselves the worldwide leader in sports when all they talk about is three different sports." Okay, I'll work on that title. But honestly, if the New York Yankees had done what the St. Louis Blues did this season and came from dead last in their league/conference to make the playoffs, ESPN would have had around-the-clock coverage.
Tim Kurkjian would've been camped outside of Joe Girardi's house with a tent, a small fire, and a bag of hot dogs.
Granted, I understand that baseball is more popular than hockey in America. But if you think for a second that if both the New England Patriots and the Houston Texans came from dead last in the AFC to make the playoffs, that the Texans would get a tenth of the coverage that the Patriots would receive, you're not only wrong, you're insane.
Personally, I don't see why this doesn't bother people more. ESPN has a metric ton of coverage with free reign to present the general public with information spanning the globe, yet Padres fans will be lucky if they get more than five minutes on Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter combined. The only way they get more coverage is if they happen to be playing the Mets that day and even then, you won't hear about the Padres lack of outfield depth.
Oh no. Not with David Wright getting a splinter in his pinkie or Carlos Beltran...existing.
I don't mean to sound bitter, and again, I'm not bitter about the Bulls loss. But ESPN's coverage of Game 5 both afterwards and into the following morning has been both shameful and reprehensible. If ESPN were based on the West Coast, we'd have to stomach endless coverage of the Angles, the Raiders, the Clippers, and the Nuggets.
As it stands, those teams get almost zero coverage.
"Truth Hurts...So Good?" How about, "Hurts...To Watch," "Hurts...To Listen," and "Hurts to...Read." Or more to the point: "ESPN's Existence Hurts...Sports."