It’s been more than 3 months since ESPN ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer saw fit to complete a column, a situation the retired television executive blames on poor health rather than, for instance, having absolutely nothing to say. In his farewell entry for ESPN.com, the former O.J. Simpson crony saved his harshest criticism for other companies (were you aware the New York Times and NPR sometimes fuck up royally, too?) while assuring the handful of readers still paying attention the Worldwide Leader is really doing the very best they can. So shut up, already.
Some might misunderstand the fact that my every comment has not been a scathing, blistering indictment of network miscues. That might be because, after 40 years in the business, I have an appreciation of the intricacies and difficulties of what ESPN is trying to accomplish. There is plenty to criticize in Bristol, but in some respects I marvel at how well the company presents its product on so many varied platforms. The sheer magnitude of the undertaking today makes any other production operation seem puny by comparison.
Is every one of the 30,000-plus programs on air or each of the millions of pages on ESPN.com a gem? No, and that’s never going to happen. Does ESPN make egregious mistakes? Of course. Are there philosophical differences between ESPN’s approach and the way its audience and critics would like to see things? Certainly. Does programming multiple platforms for the widest possible audience run counter to the individual needs and tastes of some in ESPN’s audience? Absolutely. Are some of its efforts going to fall flat? Does Peyton Manning ever throw an interception?
In fairness to Ohlmeyer, we must sympathize with his dilemma. Clearly, he’s been given a mandate to serve as something beyond a mere ombudsman, but a combination ombudsman/apologist/publicist.