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KO'd again- and why you should care. - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
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KO'd again- and why you should care.

Word has broken that Keith Olbermann will once again be leaving ESPN at the end of this month, after they couldn't come to terms on a contract extension.  That's not unusual- if anything, it was surprising that the World Wide Leader took him back after, one network exec said, KO "didn't burn bridges here- he napalmed them."  He had similar explosive departures from both Fox and NBC in the intervening years. But by all accounts, this latest disagreement wasn't about the money- at least not his.

It's about the bizarre polygamous marriage among sports leagues, advertisers and rights-buying behemoths like ESPN, and about who gets the final say about what gets said.  And Olbermann's departure seems to be its biggest rights "partner" trying to buy silence and punishing the network when it couldn't do so:

Last week it was reported that ESPN was hoping to reduce the amount of commentary Olbermann did on his show, a request that seemed to be a major sticking point and one ESPN was quick to refute.

While it’s unclear what reduction of commentary was being discussed, we’re told ESPN 100% did request that Olbermann relax on criticism of Goodell, a consistent and at times arguably a zealous focus of Olbermann’s commentary.

It was reported that ESPN’s lackluster upcoming slate of Monday Night games was believed to be retribution for Bill Simmons and Olbermann’s criticism of the league and Goodell. To that end, we’re hearing there are some ESPN folks who think the league denied a request for a Monday Night Football matchup featuring the Cowboys against a specific opponent due to Simmons and Olbermann’s vocal criticism this past year.

Huh. So THAT's why the Bills got a MNF game this year- to punish the network for allowing such incorrect opinions from KO and Simmons (who called Goodell, the NFL's commissioner, an outright liar, was suspended for doing so, and has also since been taken off the network).

While these kinds of shenanigans are bad enough in and of themselves, they are also symptomatic of the self-fulfilling prophesying that goes on in the sports world, driven by that same bizarre ongoing money de trois among the media, leagues and advertisers.  Earlier today, I saw several references to a "story" clearly aimed at clickbaiting the reader: OH NOES THE US WOMEN WHO WON THE WORLD CUP MADE LESS MONEY THAN THE MEN DID WHEN THEY LOST IT!  The reply quickly came from rightwing sources which tried to mansplain it: TOUGH SHIT, GIRLS- FEWER VIEWERS WATCH THE GAMES IN PERSON AND ON TV AND THERE'S NOT ENOUGH MONEY FOR PAY PARITY.

That has some truth in it (although not the "not enough money" part- FIFA prints money and makes it flow freely out of its arse), but it misses the bigger point: women don't get the chance at parity because the content distributors, kowtowing to their established revenue sources, don't give them that chance:

While ESPN Radio self-parody Colin Cowherd says that men are stronger and better athletes and we appreciate greatness in America and that’s why men’s sports is more fun to watch, his radio contract appears in peril because fewer and fewer people care what he has to say. While academic reports are issued that show only 2 percent of SportsCenter’s coverage is devoted to women’s sports, which is discussed there by anchors with the joy and flair of kids forced to “eat their vegetables,” more and more people are choosing to get their news from different sources if the current ones don’t meet their needs.

It’s a distorted marketplace: one where the financial value of American football, men’s basketball, and baseball has never been higher, as witnessed by the bacchanalia of max contracts being tossed around the NBA. Yet this value is not a function of their exploding popularity but of the fact that they have become the tentpole that keeps the bloated multibillion-dollar basic-cable television industry upright: the last programming in our streaming DVR’d universe that people will still endure commercials to watch.

The author goes on to condemn the "man cave" mentality of much of sports media, which dismisses any womens' athletic achievement not measured by breast size. It's a vicious cycle: ESPN and its ilk won't cover emerging sports because they don't rate as well, but they don't rate as well because they aren't covered.  Take the gender out of it and you see the same result: NHL highlights have been virtually anathema on the World Wide Leader since it stopped receiving rights fees from Bristol, and it just as seriously inhibits the growth of that sport on both genders' sides.  He ends with this pronouncement, again referencing the "eat your vegetables" trope that governs much of womens' sports coverage:

 It’s time to go on offense. It’s time to write more about women’s sports and be part of the grassroots struggle to do what the sports networks and sports-radio talking potatoes won’t do, and that’s tell the stories of what is happening in women’s sports. It’s not broccoli. It’s what we saw when Carli Lloyd lifted that shot over Japan’s goaltender Ayumi Kaihori from midfield: pure fucking joy.

Somehow, I suspect Keith would agree- if he had a platform to agree from.

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