Heavily rooted ESPN is shredding itself in front of its own viewership; Pat McAfee seems unacceptable


How Low Can Scandal-Ridden ESPN Go?


How low can you go? Apparently for ESPN there is no bottom. Twice in the last week ESPN has made the front page of the New York Times for scandalous events. Today, when someone from the New York Times telephones Bristol, they’re not looking for ratings information.

The first case happened last week when ESPN’s 85-million-dollar experiment exploded on to its own airwaves. The second is one of incredible arrogance, in what will always be known as Emmy-gate. 

In recent months ESPN fired dozens of long-time employees in an effort to save millions of dollars annually. We now know where 85 million of that money went. The Entertainment Sports and Programming Network has had two problems over the years: (1) how to get younger viewers, and (2) how to prop up those dead hours from Noon to 4pm. They solved both when they decided to give Pat McAfee the keys to ESPN’s Magic Kingdom.

McAfee is a foul-mouthed former punter who had a popular podcast with the video- game generation on Barstool Sports. ESPN decided to pay MacAfee 85 million to license (not own) McAfee’s show, while giving him total control of his show. They also promoted him by having him on GameDay weekly. The result is a program where McAfee lets loose with  “motherf_ _ _ _ers” on a regular basis. Hard to believe Bob Iger is happy about this.

Recently the New York Post printed that McAfee’s ratings are down from the show it replaced—a re-run of First Take. This incensed McAfee who singled out executive Norby Williamson as the snake who leaked the numbers to the Post. Since McAFee is not an employee, he has no fear of punishment. 

“They’ve sold their souls and it seems like they have no standards any more,” said one long-time insider. “It’s just pathetic.” And while ESPN wipes the poop of its face, McAfee is laughing all the way to the bank.

Emmy-Gate Is Almost Laughable

Today’s NY Times story involved ESPN submitting false names for Emmy Awards (particularly for GameDay) and re-engraving the Emmys with the names of their star announcers.  It’s been indicated that they did this because their on-air broadcasters had their own categories and weren’t eligible for two awards for the same show. In some cases, reporters out in the field contribute heavily to the content of a piece besides their on-air report, and should be eligible for awards alongside their producers and directors. But this has been going on since 2010 and looks nothing more than a case of unbelievable arrogance on ESPN’s part. 


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
5 months ago

Great piece. I think ESPN turned a corner in this direction a long time ago, with the network suits seeming to think the talent was expendable. Yes, a lot of announcers have correctly said that the game is the thing, but a network like ESPN needs a lot of talented broadcasters, and they have too frequently forgotten that.