When howling at ESPN, do we ever stop to think about some of the things that might slip past our righteous indignation?
It’s become as reliable as death and taxes.
I’m talking, of course, about the way in which the yellers and screamers – we call them Moon Howlers here at SpartansWire – who live in the interestingly anonymous world of the message boards are so ANGRY and contemptuous about ESPN’s existence.
Like so many of us, I’ve followed the ways in which Michigan State has handled itself in the aftermath of the horrid scandal stemming from Larry Nassar’s twenty years of sexual assault perpetrated on our campus. We all agree – it never should have been allowed to have occurred and if leaders would have led, it all would have been killed before it became what it became.
And, Michigan State has begun to deal with the very real issues associated with – but certainly not limited to – the crimes committed by Nassar in impressive and encouraging fashion. Sexual assault on the campus and throughout the Spartan community isn’t exclusive to Nassar’s former examination rooms. The culture of the school needs to be examined, discussed, and improved. To anyone who doesn’t see that, I can’t help you.
But, one of the more discouraging components of the ways in which Spartans have responded has been the almost immediate vitriol and wrath directed at the media and ESPN, in particular.
ESPN’s Outside The Lines published its now much debated and much maligned report that suggested sexual assault incidents have not been handled with the proper attention and focus within the Michigan State athletic department.
The main source for these reports has been a former employee that worked within the athletic department for seven years. Whatever you may think of her credibility, she worked within the environment for seven years. Her experience and involvement within the community speaks for itself.
There is a singular item that seems to have caused the most stir – that being the on-air graphic depicting the images of Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo on a studio video board along with Larry Nassar. That photographic imagery, for some, makes unfair insinuations. The critiques of this imagery are fair – but they also sort of fall into a category of getting stuck in the muck.
At no point has ESPN ever alleged that Mark Dantonio or Tom Izzo had anything at all to do with the Larry Nassar crimes.
So many have incorrectly used the word “conflate” when complaining about ESPN’s Outside The Lines reporting. ESPN’s Outside The Lines reporting did something that a twenty year long sexual assault scandal fairly calls for – an examination of the potential ways in which the university, as a whole, handles sexual assault.
Many claim the timing of the Outside The Lines reporting wasn’t “fair” or that it hitched its wagon to the “hot story” for the purposes of generating ratings. When would the Moon Howlers have preferred that Outside The Lines run that story? At whatever time Outside The Lines would have run the story, would the Moon Howlers have then accepted it as a fair story?
The various investigations that are either under way or will soon be under way will, rightfully, examine exactly how our leaders have handled sexual assault incidents on behalf of the student body and the overall community.
I’m confident that we’ll come to learn that Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo have, indeed, handled sexual assault with the right attention, focus, procedural approach, and proper integrity that sexual assault allegations require. But I’m also confident that the investigations are necessary.
There are larger issues that come to light when we see very clearly the anger and contempt that fans have for the media and ESPN, in particular. For the Moon Howlers and Journalism Knowers that like to vow to eliminate ESPN from their lives forever, here are some fairly basic questions for consideration:
- Have you ever watched any of the 30 For 30 films? If so, are you aware of the fact that every one of those films falls into the category of “Journalism” and that the series has revolutionized the way in which documentary filmmaking exists and is consumed?
- Regarding the 30 For 30 series – are you aware of the fact that networks and businesses and companies all across the country have benefited greatly, specifically, from the editorial and commercial success of the series and all that it represents within the media space?
- Do you find yourself compelled by the content and the storytelling found in ESPN’s long form original programming? Are you able to stop and recognize that the people who make these films and programs are “journalists” who work hard to tell important stories that help us all understand people and contexts and issues that are all seen through the prism of sports?
- Have you ever watched the six or eight (or however many episodes it is) film on the O.J. Simpson saga, “O.J.: Made In America?” That film earned an Academy Award for excellence in documentary filmmaking. It’s a primer on Journalism. And it’s as entertaining and compelling of a collection of programs as anything that’s ever been done in the history of sports television.
- Have you ever watched a college football broadcast on ESPN? Do you ever stop to recognize that the broadcast is actually a “show” in that it isn’t merely a bunch of cameras set up around a football field that have “on” switches that someone flicks moments before the ball is kicked to start the game? The announcers (who, of course, are cheering against Michigan State at all times) spend the week studying the teams and the storylines and they tell a story all through the broadcast. There was a time when a football telecast might have had four or five cameras in the stadium. Are you aware of the fact that there are many college football games to which ESPN sends as many as 24 cameras to (twice and three times as many for the biggies) in order to give you the best experience possible from the comforts of your couch?
- Have you ever watched an episode of “Pardon The Interruption?” Are you aware of the fact that this program is a “news and information” show that revolutionized the way in which all news programs are broadcast? That “rundown” that takes up the right column of the TV screen – this program was, literally, the very first program to ever integrate a graphic like that into a show to an extent that the graphic became a “character” in the show itself? That’s Journalism – and ESPN taught the newsies how to do this sort of stuff.
- Have you ever watched the 30 For 30 film on the Duke Lacrosse fiasco? If you don’t see that this film demonstrates the very best in Journalism, I can’t help you. I’d suspect that the Duke Lacrosse players themselves are appreciative that the film was done at all, let alone done in a way that expertly demonstrates just how badly that entire episode was handled by our entire society.
- Do you ever type “www.espn.com” into your computer machine to find scores or highlights or information pertaining to stuff? I suspect that you have done this.
- When watching something on any of the multiple ESPN networks, do you ever spend time simply watching the Bottom Line “ticker” that provides scores, stats, information, schedules, news, and developments across the entire world of sports? Guess what – that’s Journalism.
One of the easy things for the Moon Howlers to do is to yell and scream at “ESPN.”
The mistake made by so many is the failure to stop and understand that “ESPN” is made up of people in the same way whatever company an individual Moon Howler may work for.
It’s not a space ship located on Mars filled with computers and never-before-seen gizmos that are calculating and calibrating the next and easiest ways to attack Michigan State or the Utah Jazz or Adam Silver or the Big Ten or the New Mexico State Aggies or the Minnesota Vikings.
It’s also not a space station with built-in mechanisms that automatically celebrate Jim Harbaugh, the New York Yankees, LeBron James, Jerry Jones, and Tiger Woods.
It’s made up of people.
And the people, whether the Moon Howlers want to acknowledge this or not, are the best in the business. There are plenty of times when that doesn’t say a whole lot for “the business” – but there are crummy lawyers and doctors and vacuum cleaner salesmen out there, too.
Maybe the Moon Howlers also spend time on message boards screaming and yelling about how the horrible vacuum cleaner salesmen are to blame for other major parts of life. I just haven’t come across a lot of posts on message boards where vacuum cleaning experts lament about Hoover, Bissell, or Dyson Vacuums being the reasons for Michigan State’s problems.
There is also this to consider – the United States government has not and will not mandate that all American citizens watch and consume offerings produced and presented by ESPN.
If you don’t like ESPN, feel free to not consume its offerings. Perhaps that may lower your blood pressure. Although, you’ll need to find another scapegoat for all of the ills associated with Michigan State (and society, at large).
We’re never going to get rid of the Moon Howlers. They live to howl at the moon. And they mostly do it from their dark basements. But maybe we can suggest to some of the sane folks out there that ESPN might not necessarily be as horrific as Communism, with all due respect and apologies to Communist Spartans.
Please don’t misinterpret – the entire SpartansWire machine knows (perhaps better than many) that ESPN makes plenty of mistakes and deserves critiques. But when a presidential candidate talks about his junk during a presidential debate televised in prime time with children watching, how is it the fault of the media for suggesting that the candidate’s reference to his junk might not have been appropriate for a hundred different reasons?
How about this as a way to simply walk before we run:
Next time a member of Michigan State’s Board of Trustees does something or says something that embarrasses the university in a way that we’ve all become accustomed to, how about we don’t instinctively blame ESPN?
Next time one of our head coaches has to suspend a student athlete for failing to attend class, how about we don’t instinctively blame Outside The Lines?
Next time any of you bounce a check when you’re paying your bills, how about you resist the obvious urge to lay blame at ESPN’s feet?
And maybe the next time you want to scream and yell at ESPN, let SpartansWire know and we’ll give you the contact information for the folks that run the news and information operation there and they can come to your place of work and watch you do your thing and offer you their perspectives on your performance.
Happy howling, folks.