About That Whole ESPN East Coast Bias Thing..

June 04, 2009 |

I’m not going to pull any punches here. Given my current employment situation, I’ve got some free time on my hands. I try to use as much of it as constructively as I can. However, I, like many others have found myself spending time on a couple of ‘social networking’ sites. I’m on Facebook and Twitter. I have a Myspace page, too, but I honestly haven’t checked it in months.
Anyone who is familiar with Facebook and Twitter knows that member periodically update their ‘status.’ In other words, they allow their friends to let them see what they are doing. Some people update their status more than others. Some do it once a week. Some do it multiple times a day. I have honestly done it both ways.
I might have stepped in a bit of hot water yesterday when I updated my status with this:
Cliff Saunders gave Colin Cowherd a chance and has come the conclusion that the guy knows what he’s doing. He keeps you interested, has strong opinions, and runs a solid show. Which is more than I can say for Dan Patrick.”
I didn’t think I’d get the kind of reaction that I got. I guess I ticked some people off. It wasn’t my intention, but it is what it is. The reaction, I got, though got me to thinking about some misconceptions that are out there.
Let me say – in the interest of full disclosure – that I hadn’t given ‘The Herd’ much of my time up until a couple of weeks ago. Mostly because I was working. Partly because I just hadn’t thought about his show. I honestly stumbled by it when I was channel surfing a couple of weeks ago, started listening, and started liking it.
In a nutshell, Cowherd grabs your attention as a listener. You might not agree with what he says, but he always has something interesting to say. I can relate to a lot of what he talks about because we are both media types and we are almost the same age (I’m 37 and he’s in his early 40’s).
Cowherd can talk sports on a hardcore level, but really concentrates on talking to the casual sports fan (notice I said ‘to’ and not ‘at’). He’s bringing more people into the party and getting them to stay there.
He sometimes strays from the sports world, but he never goes into the Howard Stern type of talk. That might have been one of the benchmarks of Sports Radio a few years ago. But these days, Guy Talk is less T&A and more ‘water cooler’ talk. He knows what the line is and usually does not cross the line.
He isn’t afraid to give his opinion, and frankly, doesn’t care whether or not he ruffles a few feathers. There are a lot of other people doing sports talk on a national basis. I’m not going to name them, but there are more than a few who are afraid to really come out with a strong opinion because they fear the consequences (whether those are ruining relationships with teams, players, analysts or simply saying something that will annoy their management). Cowherd – from what I can tell – doesn’t do that. I’d much rather listen to someone who has something to say, as opposed to listening to someone who wants to make sure his guests/friends keep coming on the show.
That explains why I said what I said about his show on my Facebook page. Now, to the reaction that I got for saying that.
I guess the best way to describe it is that I should have expected it. In a nutshell, I got a lot of people telling me that Cowherd and ESPN concentrates more on the New York and Boston teams more than they should. Admittedly, the reaction came from some of my former listeners at Sportsradio 1250 WSSP in Milwaukee, and there are some people who feel that the Brewers – who at one point had won 21 out of 26 games didn’t get the coverage they deserved. I don’t agree with that at all.
The Brewers went on their hot streak at a time that the NBA playoffs were in full swing, Sidney Crosby was going toe to toe with Alexander Ovechkin, Manny Ramirez was suspended for failing a drug test, and Alex Rodriguez made his return from hip surgery. While the Brewers streak certainly was worthy, it didn’t measure up to those stories. It’s about news judgment. Editors and producers have to decide which stories have more interest to more people. Lebron, Sid-Ovie, Man Ram, and A-Rod aren’t just local stories. They are national stories (by the way I should put Kobe and the Lakers in there as well).
ESPN is doing what we all do in media, whether it’s local or national. They are ‘playing the hits.’
And, just so you don’t think ESPN doesn’t pay attention to anything but the coasts, go back to last summer. How many times did the Tampa Bay Rays – the TAMPA BAY RAYS!! – lead Sportscenter. I don’t have the exact number, but the Rays were the top story many times a year ago.
And by the way, the last time I checked, Lebron James plays for Cleveland – not exactly an East Coast metropolis.
Another thing you have to consider before you accuse ESPN of ‘East Coast Bias’ is where they are located. Bristol, CT is between New York and Boston. The Yankees, Mets, Giants, Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics all have big fan bases there. They all have been big stories over the last couple of years.
In this economy, companies such as ESPN would much rather hire local people (especially for behind the scenes positions) as opposed to bringing in people from around the country (which they did more of when the economy was booming). When you do that, you are bringing in people who already have a connection to the teams in their area, and the product will reflect that.
If ESPN were located in Chicago, there would probably be people complaining that there was too much talk about the Cubs and Bears.
ESPN has tried recently to change that perception by opening a studio in L.A. and doing Sportscenters from that studio. That would explain why they are reminding everyone that they are in Los Angeles every chance they get.
ESPN isn’t the only outlet that could be accused of bias based on where they are located. Take FOX Sports Radio and Sporting News Radio for instance. Both are in L.A. Listen to both of those networks once in a while. If they aren’t talking about the Lakers or Dodgers, it’s a good bet they are talking about USC.
It’s not bias. It’s location.
So, before you go and accuse ESPN of being biased towards the East Coast teams, consider all the factors that are in play here.