Is This Why ESPN Is Going Broke? [with comment by Paul]

ESPN is mostly losing money because people are turning away from cable television and the company paid far too much for the rights to various sports. But it hasn’t helped that ESPN has become a constant source of left-wing commentary.

I don’t know what it is about sportswriters, but when they allow their politics to show, they are nearly always left-wing. It’s an odd phenomenon. Certainly you can’t say the same about the average sports fan. So politically, there is a wide gulf between ESPN’s on-air personalities and the majority of their audience. Did someone at ESPN make a conscious decision to brand itself as left-wing? If so, it was a very dumb decision.

Our friends at Grabien have compiled this montage that shows just a few of the many instances when ESPN commentators wore their leftism on their sleeves. If ESPN is going broke, it can’t happen too soon:

PAUL ADDS: I wrote about ESPN’s financial woes here. I wrote about its leftism, which probably has something to do with its financial woes, here and here.

To answer John’s question, it’s likely that someone at ESPN did make a conscious decision to become overtly left-wing. That someone is its president, John Skipper.

Clay Travis, a close observer of ESPN, has written:

ESPN is trying desperately to stay relevant as ratings collapse and subscribers flee. The decision? [Become] MSESPN, the home for far left wing politics and sports! Only, it’s not working.

My (less informed) view is different. Given the irrationality, from a business perspective, of moving leftward, I suspect that Skipper did it because that’s where he wanted ESPN to be, not because he thought it would help his company. He wouldn’t be the first television executive to behave this way.

As for why so many sportswriters and commentators are hack leftists, think of them as regular journalists with an inferiority complex. Most American journalists and pundits are leftists, so it shouldn’t be surprising that this is also the case in sports journalism.

I suspect, moreover, that many (obviously, not all) sports journalists feel inferior to regular journalists because they are covering games, not politics or policy. This sense of inferiority may drive them to mimic, sometimes in exaggerated form, the leftism of regular journalists.

For an analogy, consider college English departments. Professors at high-end schools may impose their left-wing sensibilities on the literature they teach, but they are likely to do so with sophistication, insight, and nuance. At lesser institutions, professors will tend to impose the leftism, but maybe not with the same level of sophistication, insight, and nuance.

Finally, let’s note how well sports lends itself to talking about race. It’s much easier and more satisfying for reporters to dwell on that subject, from a left-liberal perspective, than to offer serious analysis of a particular game or team. Anyway, we now have the analytics industry to provide that service.

ESPN’s Skipper reportedly loves to talk about race. The Washington Post’s adoring profile tells us he enjoys late night “high level sophisticated conversations about American literature, Faulkner’s place in it, [and] the influence of alcohol and race. . . .” His preoccupation (with race, not Faulkner — I’m not sure about alcohol) has filtered through ESPN.


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