Tuesday, July 18, 2006

My wish is that SportsCenter was still a decent television show

Well, in a post a few days ago I joked that it was about time for SportsCenter to start its summer time-killing feature series. This is something they started doing a few years ago, if I recall correctly, as baseball entered the dog days and the other major sports remained on hiatus. Remember last summer's grueling 50 States in 50 Days where it talked about each different state's various sports traditions? Invariably, it was footage of the sun rising over a farm, with Chris Connelly intoning things like "Iowa's corn cob races are a time-honored rite of passage here in the Hawkeye State." Ugh.

Not to be outdone, this year's feature is "My Wish," a 10-part series featuring 10 dying kids getting to meet their sports idols. Now don't get me wrong - I am all for the Make-A-Wish Foundation (the organization co-creating the series). It's just that the series feels, well, a little skeevy.

First of all, ESPN's parent company - Walt Disney - has
lots of major ties to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. And hey, that's great. But can't you just picture a bunch of Disney suits named Geoff and Rick and Madison telling ESPN that their dead zone of summer programming could provide great opportunity for some cross-pollinational branding synergy? That the Make-A-Wish and Disney ecosystems can be collaboratively optimized using the ESPN brand and its flagship product? It all just smacks of boardroom marketing, and thus feels disingenuous and inorganic - like we're being fooled into watching an infomercial, which is shady no matter how compelling the subject matter. Just get the parents to cry, get a shot of the awestruck kid, and we're done. Of course, the Disney logo is visible during the opening sequence of every "My Wish" segment - tried to find a screen shot but couldn't. (Anyone know any tricks to getting really good TV screen shots, by the way?)

Furthermore, I wonder how sincere these players are. If a kid with a disease came up to one of them on the street and asked for 10 seconds of their time, with no cameras rolling and no legion of lawyers and PR people setting up the meeting and demanding that eight varieties of waivers be signed, would they even break their stride? I also wonder if it's no coincidence that several of the chosen athletes - Kobe Bryant, Derek Jeter, the Philadelphia Eagles, Roger Clemens, Jeff Gordon - have tarnished reputations from doing bad stuff or general unlikeability. Yes! More synergy! We can use this as an opportunity to cull stars in need of marketability enhancement and image rehabilitation!

Sorry if you think this sounds cynical, but, you know, screw you. Cynical times call for cynical mindsets. Some might not even call it cynicism. Some might call it realism. But in any case, that's my take. I remember back in the day when SportsCenter would just show more sports highlights during the summer dead zone. But where's the synergy in that?

My Wish homepage

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Masterlock said...

first off - love ur blog. you are one funny SOB.

second, while i agree that sportscenter has become something quite different than what it once was/intended to be, thats just what it is. with sportscenter on from 7 am till noon, then back on at primetime, combined with baseball tonight, and now nfl preview shows, i guess a few public interest stories are not that bad.

also, when you were growing up, had you no dreams of meeting players, running onto the field, checking out locker rooms? i did. some of these clips are pretty sweet, with kids getting to put on pads in the locker room with players and doing other pre-game stuff that only players do. pretty sweet deal.

MSH said...

I hear you. And yeah, I definitely, absolutely have no problem with public interest stories (the one from a few months back about the autistic basketball player who made all those three-pointers was a really good one) or with kids having their wish to meet players fulfilled. Sure, I used to fantasize about meeting certain professional athletes. Hell, I still do. But I feel like this series of stories is very contrived and very fake. I feel like its first priority is not to help out a sick kid or even tell a compelling story, but to promote athletes (who blame the media when things go wrong but secretly LOVE publicity, as higher profiles mean higher endorsement dollars) and to promote Disney and what a great, great company it is. It might be wrapped up in the guise of altruism or human-interest journalism, but to me, that's just what it is - a guise.

Masterlock said...

no disagreement with that. and i hate Stu Scott too. Boyeah!

MSH said...

Ha! Yeah, if Stu Scott actually, physically died, I'm not sure I'd be that upset. And that's real, dog.

Josh said...

Plus his eye is fake.....creepy......

Anonymous said...

Joking aside, those kids on the "Make a Wish" segments are very often terminal cases. Is it too much to give their family a couple moments of watching their kid have their dream come true? I applaud ESPN for showing some of the good things players do regardless of Disney and the rest. If you've ever known a family to have lost a child, you know how truly devastating it can be for everyone. The Roger Clemens segment was truly amazing. You can't bs that.

Anonymous said...

I'm 100% positive that the idea for the "My Wish" series came from an ESPN executive's WIFE, and not a Disney boardroom.

Yes, SPortsCenter is not what it used to be - for better or for worse.

But if you can't put down your "BS radar" for 10 minutes and enjoy a win-win-win-win idea for the kids, the athletes, ESPN AND the viewer, then I just feel bad for you.

Anonymous said...

FYI - Disney had nothing to do with My Wish. Disney requested that ESPN slap the Disney logo on it at the last minute. You didn't hear that from me.

Paul Thomas said...

Wow. People still watch Sportscenter live? Without a Tivo or DVR?

People still care about ESPN and what it "means?"

Anonymous said...

How is Derek Jeter unlikeable? Unless you're a Sox fan that is. But really, you can't lump him in with Kobe Bryant. You just can't.

MSH said...

Hey, debate! I like debate. Three points:

1) My BS meter does just that - detects BS. If there was no BS, it wouldn't detect anything, and there'd be no issue. I'm not finding BS where there is none - I'm merely detecting it and pointing it out. If you still feel bad for me, why don't you send me some money? I also accept gift cards.

2) Like I said more than once in the post and again in the comment area, I have nothing against sick children. Who has anything against sick children? Please, please, let's not bring The Children into this. Think of The Children before you use The Children to make an argument. NOW who's being cynical? Sounds like somebody on my comment board doesn't Support The Troops. My focus is on ESPN and Disney, and what I see as them essentially USING sick children to promote themselves and fill air time in a slow month. Again, if that take makes you sad, you can always send me money.

3) I'm not getting into how Derek Jeter is or isn't likeable. The hard, cold fact is that Derek Jeter is booed a lot on the road, and a lot of people do, in fact, dislike him for whatever reason. Not comparing his life or career to Kobe's - just saying they both have their detractors, that's all. You can't honestly say Derek Jeter doesn't have haters. A lot of haters. Everywhere.