(back when Phillips actually worked in New York. With apologies to the Rotters)
Given the New York Post’s exhaustive coverage of Steve Phillips’ sex life this week, you might be mistaken for thinking the disgraced ESPN baseball analyst’s face actually sold newspapers. As such, it’s curious with all the coverage of Phillips’ zipper issues, few have wondered why a major New York tabloid would devote nearly as much time and attention to a person not nearly as famous to the general public as Michael Jackson or Balloon Boy. That Phillips’ embarrassment would be grist for Deadspin and countless other sports blogs is no surprise. Via his shoddy broadcast work and/or tenure as Mets general manager, Phillips became a widely mocked figure long before he was accused of getting busy in a Target parking lot. But even assuming half of the Post’s readers are Mets fans, how many of them were aching to see Phillips take a spectacular, personal fall?
A case like the Phillips/Hundley affair doesn’t make the front page — even in a slow news week — without authorization from the top. And the higher you go up the ladder, the more this seems like an arm of NewsCorp has gone to deliberate lengths to publicly humiliate a major competitor. Is Fox going to win future bidding rights to the NBA because Steve Phillips was horny? Probably not — and they might not want said rights, anyway. But every little revelation that proves hurtful to ESPN is making someone in Rupert Murdoch’s organization smile.
So with all that said, congratulations to Phil Mushnick for towing the company line this week. “The only time ESPN indulges ” even encourages ” sexual insensitivity from employees is as a matter of commerce,” lectured Phil in today’s paper, “while in public, on ESPN, ESPN Radio, in ESPN the Magazine or ESPN.com.” As opposed to Fox TV, Fox Sports, NewsCorp’s movie studios and newspapers, none of which ever stoop to pander? By all means, kick Phillips when he’s down. If baseball fans are lucky, when he gets back up he’ll be doing something far quieter. But don’t pretend for a minute that ESPN is any more or less a corrupting, degrading societal force compared to their competition.