ESPN appears to have a lot in common with Carnival cruise ships these days--they are out of control and just a little bit smelly. From employees bashing the networks product to quips and jokes it seems as if anarchy is the law of the land in Bristol. The only thing the network does seem to control is the exposure that inflammatory comments from the likes of Skip Bayless and Rob Parker types gets.
The latest tidbit--and hence my prediction that he'll be suspended soon--came courtesy of Bill Walton during coverage of the Oregon Washington game Thursday night starting with this quip about the network's latest hire, Ray Lewis:
Call it a hunch, but I doubt the network is going to be real happy that Bill is making light of Ray's obstruction of justice/murder scandal from early in his career. It's not exactly a bright point in the star linebacker's life, and not something ESPN will want people thinking about when football season gets started and Lewis is on camera a lot.
That wasn't the worst of it though (or best depending on your perspective). During the game he made reference to ESPN suspending Bill Simmons from Twitter for bashing a recent episode of the controversial show First Take (where Skip Bayless and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman verbally sparred), a debate style show known more for stirring up trouble than anything else (but controversy sells, right ESPN?).
If you haven't heard, Simmons told people not to watch the show and called it garbage. I can't argue with that--I found it entertaining as heck. I will say it was more fitting a show on VH1 or as an episode of Jerry Springer (is Jerry still doing it?) than a sports information/news network.
His partner, Dave Pasch, deserves a lot of credit for trying to keep things on track, but when you are a basketball icon like Bill Walton it is probably safe to say that you don't need the job. Maybe--just maybe--Bill consciously did what he did to test the network and see how far he could go without being overt; sort of a passive-aggressive protest of sorts.
If ESPN is going to be consistent they need to discipline Walton; at the least have him apologize for his behavior. Then they need to take a good, hard look at the product they are producing and promoting to see why so many of its personalities are lashing out.
Maybe he is getting tired of all the inflammatory jargon that is taking over the network. More and more it does seem like ESPN is all about saying something outlandish than actually reporting on the news and giving insight into the world of sports.
This is not to say that the whole network is trash. They just need to clean house and get back to the business of sports. Tell guys to temper their own biases towards athletes and get back to what made ESPN great.
Or when FoxSports 1 goes live they may find a lot of viewers jumping ship.