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
ESPN, Sports, Television, Sports media, Make-A-Wish, My Wish