BY DANIEL BREMMER: GARDEN STATE OF MIND
Published October 4, 2004
When I sit down to watch my TV, there are
certain things I can bank on. When I put on E!, I know I’m
going to see celebrities. If I tune to CNN, I know I’m going
to get the news.
But nowadays, when I put on ESPN … I don’t know
what the hell I’m gonna get.
Lately, the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in
sports” is losing its credibility — as evidenced by the
decline in the network’s flagship show, SportsCenter.
SportsCenter used to be about hard-hitting sports news. But now,
it’s the TV equivalent of the loser in high school, who
thought that if he called himself cool enough times, he would
C’mon ESPN — don’t be that guy.
Anchor Stuart Scott is the personification of this problem with
SportsCenter. Years ago, he used to be one of the better anchors
they had. Now, he spends more time thugging out his writing than
thinking about whether or not he even makes any sense.
To prove my point, I sat down and watched ESPN’s 2 a.m.
SportsCenter on Sunday night. Here’s a rundown of the
disappointment I witnessed:
2 a.m. — SportsCenter introduction. Less than 30 seconds
into the show, and Stuart Scott has just referred to the audience
as “dog” for the first time (or is it
“dawg?”). This is the first of what I’m
sure will be many Stuart Scott
moments. I can only imagine how painful this is to watch for people
who actually talk like that.
2:01 a.m. — Too bad my watch doesn’t have a second
hand. Less than a minute later, and Stu just called the audience
“son.” Much like his “dawg”
comment, this one is quite forced and awkward sounding. You think
Dan Rather uses “son” on the evening news?
2:02 a.m. — After the intro, the camera cuts back to Linda
Cohn sitting next to Stu. Before I even have time to think of
another sarcastic remark, Stu declares, “Alongside L. Co
— Linda Cohn, I’m double-S, Stuart Scott.”
Did that really just happen? What the hell is an L. Co? Someone
should tell Stu that J. Lo ‘s (I’m assuming this is the
bad reference he was trying to make) career is almost as much of a
joke right now as his own. Two minutes in, and already, I
don’t know if I can take much more of this crap.
2:08 a.m. — Just as we get to the fourth quarter of the
Patriots-Bills highlights, Stu hits us with this call on a Tom
Brady touchdown pass: “Play action. Holla at a playa when
you see him in the street. Brady to Daniel Graham.” Which
part of this line is worse? The whole “holla at a
playa” to describe a touchdown? Or the
“when-you-see-him-in-the-street” add-on? I’d have
an easier time trying to translate one of Sean Paul’s raps
into English than tell you what Stu was trying to get across with
“in the street.”
2:09 a.m. — I’ve never been so happy to see a
commercial in my life. It’s like a two-minute-long Advil in
the midst of my Stuart Scott headache.
2:14 a.m. — Stu and Linda team up for this blockbuster
commentary during the Atlanta-Carolina highlight:
Stu: Muhsin Muhammad on the reverse. He’s hit, and he
Linda: Want a lozenge?
Stu: No I’m good. Muhsin coughed it up, though.
Ah, I get it. Instead of just saying “cough,” Stuart
decided that he’d actually cough. That’s
2:15 a.m. — Less than a minute later, Stu says Kevin
Mathis was “drinking some Hater-ade” on an
interception. I’m speechless, wondering how Stuart Scott
still has a job.
2:32 a.m. — We come back from commercial to the
announcement of “the Ultimate Highlight.” First of all,
why don’t they just call it what it really is: a
below-average music video. Do we really need to see this crappy
compilation of clips? Maybe two or three of them are true
highlights. Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for
well-done, meaningful clip montages. If you’ve ever seen
ESPN’s Images of the Century (try and download it on Kazaa if
you haven’t seen it already), you’ll know what I mean.
That thing brings a tear to your eye. But calling this garbage
“The Ultimate Highlight” is like calling a Schlitz
“The Ultimate Beer” or calling North Campus “The
Ultimate Place to Live.”
2:39 a.m. — We’re heading to commercial, and Stuart
is teasing Chris Berman’s upcoming top-10 plays segment
(I’m sure it has its own sponsor, no less). Stu actually says
this: “The thing about Chris Berman’s Top-10 Plays
of the Week, it’s usually like 17 or 18. Kind of like a curve
on a test. 10 becomes 17, which means 7 more flava’d things
for your palate.” No, I didn’t mess up when
transcribing that. Yes, that’s exactly how it came out of his
mouth. And no, I have no idea in the world what he was trying to
3:00 a.m. — As we hit the one-hour mark, Stu hits us with
his third “dawg” of the night, this one geared
towards Emmitt Smith.
3:09 a.m. — “I … love, workin’ on
the Abs. A trainer throwin’ jabs, beatin’ on the
’Skins … and twins.” Here it is —
maybe the single worst moment in SportsCenter history — the
“Here’s-to-Football” song. OK, it was catchy as a
Coors commercial a year ago. And the first time it hit SportsCenter
last football season, it was bearable. But now, a hundred-thousand
times after I originally heard it, it makes me want to throw my
remote through my TV.
Never have I hated football so much as when that stupid song
comes on SportsCenter. I don’t get it. The gimmick is up.
Does ESPN expect me to say, “Oooh, wow. They changed the
words around for this week’s edition” and just sit here
and enjoy it? Seriously, I would rather listen to Roseanne sing the
national anthem while running her fingernails along a blackboard.
Someone has got to end this awful song.
3:26 a.m. — Just as I’m about to celebrate this
episode being near the end, I have another reason to rejoice
— the greatest commercial in recent memory comes on. Have you
seen this Nike ad for the Michael Vick rollercoaster? It’s
mind-blowing. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet (you
should be watching more TV), a kid straps himself into a roller
coaster-style harness and proceeds to head into a gauntlet of NFL
defenders that are flying at him one at a time. After a bunch of
scares and a flip at the end, he’s in the endzone. The best
part? The roller coaster action snapshot that they flash on the
screen at the end of the commercial. The kid is screaming as loud
as I did when I found out the Nets were trading Kenyon Martin.
Is it possible someone will ever actually build this ride?
I’d wait in line all day for this one. They should look into
more of these sports-themed coasters. I also want to find out who
made this commercial. ESPN should call this guy and let him consult
for them to help devise a decent segment on SportsCenter. Hell, you
can even let him write some of Stuart Scott’s dialogue.
3:27 a.m. — Just realized how pathetic it is that the best
part of SportsCenter might be the Vick commercial. Goes to show you
how well ESPN has been doing lately.
3:28 a.m. — About two minutes left. I wonder, can Stu blow
my mind one more time with his words of wisdom?
3:29 a.m. — Booyah! Stu doesn’t disappoint. Someone
just flipped on his “awkwardly misplaced pop-culture
reference” switch. “You can either lean back and do
the rockaway or lean back and crank it. This is how we roll. Pump
up the volume, week four flavor.”
3:30 a.m. — Whew. It’s finally over. I feel as
disoriented as that kid on the Vick ride.
Keep up the good work, ESPN. In the meantime, I wonder
what’s on E!