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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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ESPN is usually useless during summer, but they've outdone themselves this year.
ESPN is usually useless during summer, but they've outdone themselves this year.

ESPN is unwatchable

I like ESPN. I really do. But it seems every summer, when my dad and I are off on our baseball trip, their desperate attempts to fill airtime turn into reasons to change the channel.

Normally, the filler programming is the Summer X-Games, which I'm constantly surprised to find still exists. It's certainly not something I would go out of my way to watch, but all things considered, it's not painful (except when the athletes get injured, like skateboarder Jake Brown's terrifying 50-foot mid-air fall in 2007, which was very painful to watch).

Far more painful are the special SportsCenter segments. They started out decent enough in 2005 with their "50 States in 50 Days" segment, in which the show was broadcast from a new state every day with a small focus on a unique local sporting event. In the world of SportsCenter time killers, it was actually pretty fun, providing interesting sports stories from places normally ignored.

Things took a turn for the worse in 2007 with "Who's Now," a completely asinine segment that used a celebrity panel and fan votes to determine which athlete was the most "now" (whatever that means). It was useless debate for the sake of an even more useless title.

Somehow, this summer, ESPN found an even more aggravating and useless event to cover: the Jets mini-camp.

We should have all seen this coming when cult sensation Tim Tebow was traded to the less successful of the two New York NFL franchises. It was assumed that the Jets would be one of the bigger stories of the football season, but I was not prepared for how overboard ESPN was willing to go on their coverage.

SportsCenter currently spends approximately five to ten minutes of every broadcast covering glorified practice. Every one of Tebow's passes and play-action runs (as well as shirtless runs in the rain) are analyzed with the same care and consideration as the Zapruder film. Analyst Ron Jaworski keeps noting that there is no real quarterback controversy, but that doesn't stop anchor Hannah Storm and sideline interviewer Sal Paolantonio from asking prodding questions about it.

The coverage reached the apex of annoyance when Jaworski began talking about a nice goal line Wildcat play Tebow ran in for a touchdown. Except it wasn't a touchdown because it's not a real game. The defense couldn't even tackle Tebow (or Sanchez for that matter) if they wanted to since he's got the red jersey on.

This isn't even pre-season football; this is some sad brand of neutered football, and ESPN is covering it like every play could make or break a season.

Maybe this excessive coverage wouldn't annoy me as much if it wasn't for the Jets – a team that, for the past five years, has been all hype and no accomplishment. It seems almost insulting that the Jets steal the spotlight while the New York Giants, the team just next door who just happen to be defending Super Bowl Champions, practice in relative obscurity.

It also might not be as unnerving if the coverage wasn't focused entirely on Tebow and Sanchez, two quarterbacks who are mediocre at best.

There might be a large audience for this ridiculous amount of Jets coverage (namely New York fans). But I would be willing to bet that there's an even larger audience who's routinely changing channels over to the Olympics anytime a Jets logo sneaks its way on screen.

Trip notes: After my first attempt at becoming a Cubs fan failed spectacularly, my dad and I saw another game at Wrigley. It was a gorgeous day, marred only by the awful Cubs, who lost 8-4 (thanks to some late runs, the score looks better than it really was).

Though I won't call myself a fan, I can sympathize with the Cubs' struggles, especially Wednesday afternoon. The game was actually pretty close for seven innings until the bullpen came in and blew the game open for the Pirates. Sound familiar, Brewers fans?

We've been mainly staying on the North Side of Chicago for the Cubs games, but Wednesday night, we dressed ourselves up and made our way into downtown for a steak at Gene and Georgetti's. The place was incredible, and I don't just mean the food, which I ate my body weight in. It's a real old-school steakhouse, with old Italian waiters wearing ties and white jackets taking your order. I felt like we were pulled into a deleted scene from "The Godfather" or "Goodfellas."

Total hot dogs eaten: Still stuck on four. That BBQ pulled pork sandwich (from O'Malley's Liquor Kitchen if you were wondering) is as addictive as ever.

Talkbacks

captain | Aug. 3, 2012 at 1:40 p.m. (report)

It started to go downhill with Stuart Scott and his "Booyah"s. I watch the MLB and NFL networks for my sports coverage. They actually talk about every team not just the Yankees and Red Sox, Tebow and Favre, Tiger Woods, etc.

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devidia | Aug. 3, 2012 at 12:57 p.m. (report)

Make a drinking game out of it. Take a drink of beer for every time Ron Jaworski says "the National Football League".

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