Sports Media Guide continues their excellent series of Q&A’s with various heavyweights from the print and electronic world, the most recent interrogation subject being ESPN’s venerable Bob Ley (above). My favorite portions are below :
Q. Didn’t the NFL exert pressure to cancel the “Playmakers” series?
A. It took a fair amount of stones to put that on to begin with. My understanding is that there were indications the NFL wasn’t happy about it before it went on, and even so it went on and lasted a full year. I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve read it in other media, that the company was approached by other entities to sell the rights of Playmakers “ we could have made a lot of money and believe me we’re about making money “ and we chose not to. You can take the contrarian view that ESPN folded like a bunch of lackeys, but it took something to put that on. By the way Tank Johnson, what’s fact and what’s fiction?
Q. ESPN’s impact on the sports culture is said to be negative “ is that fair?
A. It started with the highlight phenomenon “ and this goes back ten years now “ the wallpapering of highlights contributed to the “me first “ look at me” attitude. Maybe ten or twelve years ago there might have been some validity on that issue, but I can tell you first hand a lot of thought goes on about what goes on the air. We are the 800-pound sports gorilla that defines the daily discourse on sports, and I said this to Chris (Berman) on our 25th special – with being a leader goes a great amount of responsibility. It is one we take seriously. I can speak for myself and the people I work with on a daily basis “ we do take it seriously. I think parenthood helps you understand, and answering e-mails and phone calls helps you understand just how much responsibility we have.
The flip side is they give us a great forum. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves these are the jobs we wanted all of our lives. It gives us a podium. You can positively affect things “ if somebody doesn’t run out a ground ball and you report it “ sometimes the facts alone are damning. I’m very happy we were the first to report this Isiah thing. If somebody sent somebody out to commit a hard foul on one of the best players in the game that should be reported.
To assume our impact is always negative is somewhat unfair.
Q. Are you a sportscaster or a broadcaster?
A. I guess I’m a broadcaster. A sportscaster would be the Red Blazer in the white world of sports.
A. That’s from the old Cheech and Chong song, “Basketball Jones.” A song on which, by the way, George Harrison and Carly Simon played in the band, and Michelle Phillips was a backup singer.
Much as I respect Ley — who somehow has managed to maintain his dignity though a lifetime at the Worldwide Leader — there’s considerable dispute over whether not ESPN was “the first to report this Isiah thing.”