Jon Reed Goes Off On... December 2007
Thursday, December, 06 2007
ESPN Turns up the Volume in the Company Store
Deep in the twisted bowels of the history of capitalism lies the phenomenon of ďthe company store.Ē The company store was pretty nice business for the owners. You put people up in a nice little shanty town, made sure they were pretty far away from cheap supplies, and you charged them out the nose for basic household items.
ESPN has become a sort of company store when it comes to sports news and highlights. At one point, CNNSI was trying to give it a go on television, but at this point, the biggest competition to ESPNís SportsCenter is ESPNís own ESPN News. At one point, ESPN used to make sure that ESPN News was a real SportsCenter alternative, free of SportsCenter gimmicks like the Budweiser Hot Seat. If you wanted to get Stuart-Scott-and-Kenny-Mayne free highlights, you had the option. And if you wanted to listen to highlights without a junk music soundtrack behind you, you had that choice.
But no longer. Now, if you watch highlights on ESPN News, or for that matter, any of ESPNís ďsister channels,Ē you also get to listen to abysmal sub-classic rock jingles that ESPN purchased in 1995 and has been playing over and over ever since. I donít have the statistics handy, but Iím certain you reach a point where if youíve heard the same musical jingle often enough, it becomes a permanent part of your brain. The frightening implication? ESPN not only owns cable sports, it also owns a growing percentage of my cranium.
After a half hour of ESPN News, you turn off the TV with a hundred junkyard Joe Satriani wannabe riffs ringing through your head. It really bothers me that I have to listen to this tuneless craprock whenever I get my sports highlights because ESPN isnít willing to let the highlights speak for themselves or provide a noise-pollution-free alternative.
Of course, ESPN is not the only network that cannot seem to put sports on TV without running some kind of musical equivalent of puke behind it. Just check out an Orlando Magic basketball game, and listen to all the lowest common denominator sounds they feel they have to pipe through the loudspeakers during the game itself in order to keep a captive audience who has already paid way too much for tickets interested.
The latest trend is to actually play these ďrock is deadĒ songs of the damned while commentators are pontificating. Thatís a really nice compliment: weíre glad to have you on our show, but weíre worried that our listeners will channel surf unless we play this soulless bombast in the background while you are talking.
Scratching underneath this trend of musical abuse, what we conclude is that ESPN and other networks are too insecure about their product to let the action on the field, or in the highlights package, speak for itself.
But wait, I know what youíre thinking: paying for real quality songs would be too expensive, so whatís the alternative to these mud rock jingles from hell? Well hereís one for you: what if ESPN had their own house band? They could do the highlights while a jazz band played in the background. Talk about a good cause: musicians struggling to make ends meet would have the option to go to work for the Worldwide Leader and play cool jams to a live audience. Everyone wins - ESPN gets the music it evidently requires to cater to an attention deficit disorder generation, and musicians get to quit their day jobs in restaurant dishrooms and prevent brains like mine from filling up with corporate sewage.
I donít expect any royalties from this brilliant idea, nor do I expect it to ever happen. But a guy can dream. In the meantime, thereís one thing ESPN canít take away from me: the mute button on my remote control.