…but they’re undermining serious journalism, too. At least that’s the reasoning of newly ensconced ESPN ombudsman Robert Lipsyte, who likens the network’s comedic “This Is SportsCenter” commercials to “Brian Williams and Secretary of State John Kerry in the NBC copy room, scanning each other’s butts.”
Seeing athletes in different clothes and without their game faces is a pleasure of the watching the ESPYS. I particularly enjoyed watching Christian Ponder, the Vikings’ quarterback — ESPN’s Ron Jaworski has him rated No. 27 of 32 in his NFL QB rankings — apparently auditioning for his next career as a broadcast jock. Supported by the former Samantha Steele, an ESPN reporter and now also his wife, Ponder interviewed the amiable likes of Houston defensive end J.J. Watt (by throwing little footballs over his head). Ponder is actor-cute in that indie-film- and-TV mumblecore way. If he doesn’t make Jaws’ top 20 this season, he should scramble for a role on a cop show.
I also enjoyed watching athletes in the audience guffawing, often a beat late, at dumb — and sometimes mean — jokes by host Jon Hamm, often at Dwight Howard’s expense. The message here is that it’s all entertainment, folks, as sports should be, whether Adrian Peterson is running long on his acceptance speech, or just running long.
But the ESPYS offer another message, much like the annual White House Correspondents’ dinner: We’re all in this together. It’s fine for news executives, columnists and anchors to party with politicians and lobbyists, to get to know them as human beings, just as it is fine for ESPN executives, columnists and anchors, to party with athletes (and maybe not to feel like green ants.)
The concern, though, is that viewers might be getting the idea that they are the rubes at these circuses, that the jocks and the pols who show up can expect, in return, access and favors from the media.