ESPN puts more salt on a forgettable summer; Mark Jackson is the latest victim; Rich Podolsky explains why

Is Mark Jackson the Victim of Disney’s Rotten New Films? 


ESPN is setting some kind of record for firing popular broadcasters. Yesterday it was the very popular lead NBA analyst Mark Jackson. One reason ESPN is setting these records may be because its parent company, Disney, is having a very bad year in the movie business. A very, very bad year.

First their animated Pixar film “Elemental” (which cost an estimated $200 million to make) took in just 29.5 mill opening week. That’s just revenues, not profits. And now “Haunted Mansion,” which also cost about $200 mill, only did $24 million on its opening weekend. The New York Times called it “a comatose result.”

After the “Elemental” disaster Jeff Van Gundy got the hook despite 16 years with the network. Now Jackson leaves after a decade of superlative work. Some might argue that ESPN had to fire Van Gundy first so it wouldn’t look like a race-related move. It would be shocking if it was, but appearances are everything these days.

What ESPN is doing is saving pennies while its parent is losing millions. No make that hundreds of millions. The rumor is that Doris Burke and Doc Rivers will replace Van Gundy and Jackson. Rivers would be a popular choice and probably come in at a salary lower than what Jackson was making. Burke is already there and is a solid analyst, but neither,  it would seem, have a hint of controversy in their work, like Van Gundy and Jackson had criticizing officials and the league.


Anheuser Busch is losing its shirt with Bud Light, which is now perceived by many as LBGTQ friendly. Why? Here’s some background as I understand it. Before Gay Pride month Bud sent out logos to the thousand or so influencers they pay to support their brands. (The young people who have become popular posting short clips on Tik Tok and other social media are now known as influencers). Anyway, one of those influencers apparently was a transgender person who loved the logo Bud’s marketers sent him, and went on social media to brag about it. After that the LBGTQ bashers took over and made Bud Light taboo for any “real men.” Since then the brand’s sales have fallen drastically.

However Country singer megastar Garth Brooks is having none of it. He told Entertainment Tonight that he has “always been inclusive,” and that his new bar in Nashville named “Friends in Low Places Bar & Honky Tonk”) would serve every brand of beer (including Bud Light). On being inclusive he said, “We’re going to need each other, trust me.”

You’d think some of the athletes who have become zillionaires thanks to Budweiser’s help, might take Garth Brooks’ lead. In 1979 Budweiser was the first big brand to advertise on ESPN. By signing a deal for $1.38 million it gave the network the life that helped it survive in the early days. Indirectly, because of Budweiser’s help and continued sponsorship, ESPN has made thousands of athletes stars and millionaires. You’d think some of these millionaires might come to Bud Light’s rescue.

Rich Podolsky

Rich Podolsky, an established writer and reporter since the 70s, has been a staff writer for CBS and has written for ESPN, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Palm Beach Post, the Wilmington News Journal, College & Pro Football Newsweekly and TV Guide. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers' Keystone Award for writing excellence. A fan of music from the 60s and 70s, he is the author of "Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear," which relates how Kirshner discovered Bobby Darin, Carole King and Neil Sedaka among others, and "Neil Sedaka, Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivor,” which tells the inside story of Sedaka’s comeback. His new book, “You Are Looking Live!” is about CBS’ revolutionary pregame show in 1975 which introduced Brent, Phyllis, Irv and The Greek to America.

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Michael Green
10 months ago

Thanks for some great stuff. A couple of things …. First, on ESPN. Some years ago, the wonderful longtime CBS News chief foreign correspondent, Tom Fenton, wrote a book called Bad News, about the lack of international news on network TV (including the story of how he strained every nerve in the mid-1990s to get an exclusive with an elusive subject, got it, and was told to hold off until the guy was in the news; his name was Osama Bin Laden). He said that in an interview, Tom Brokaw told him this, and Dan Rather confirmed doing the same… Read more »