An Open Letter to ESPN
I’m writing to tell you that I think it’s time that we start seeing other people.
I can forgive alot. I can forgive the fact that you will feature darts on your homepage before tennis; unless it’s a Grand Slam, in which case you give me a little below-the-fold action. I can even forgive the fact that if I want to find tennis on your website that I need to look in the “more” menu. More is for bass fishing. More is for rodeo. I thought we were closer than more. I thought we really had something more than more.
I guess I thought wrong.
I thought I could forgive you when you did online chats with top players like the ones with Gonzalez or Safin this week, but then you go off and put them in the Insider. I don’t want to be an Insider. How do I even know you have anything Inside that I want? Paul Goldstein’s blog? Pfft. He doesn’t mean that much to me. I don’t know what else you’re hiding Inside, I just know that when you withhold stuff from me, it just makes me turn to others to get what I need.
And I will.
Because now you’ve gone too far. You’ve decided to show me what you really think of me by bringing new people into my home during the U.S. Open Series.
First of all, Todd Harris has no experience with tennis. His notoriously bad performance at last year’s Indy 500 was classically appauling. Comparing Danica Patrick to Sally Ride and Amelia Earhardt? Gimme a break. He screamed through the final 25 laps, and repeatedly told viewers to “Strap in folks, it’s going to be a good one!” Oh, and let’s not forget the 500 times he said that the 500 is “The greatest spectacle in racing!” WTF? What, exactly, is this laughing stock going to do for tennis? The car racing fans didn’t want him. Why should I?
Am I supposed to just accept this?
And what about Sean McDonough? C’mon, he’s just not a tennis guy. Sure, he’s called matches at the Open, but he’s a Red Sox guy. He’s an NHL guy. He’s a college football guy — any other major sport but tennis. Don’t get me wrong, I remember Friday night Sox games that McDonough called with solid analysis, impartiality, and humor. And like other native New Englanders I felt bad for the guy when he got canned from his Sox gig, but tennis is just obviously not where the guy’s heart or his forte are.
Maybe I’m fickle, but I want someone who has info and something tangible to say. I want to hear from a real tennis journalist — someone who knows the players, someone who knows their backstory and their demons and can convey this knowledge in a way that’s relevant to the match. I don’t want someone who’s relying on the producer to tell him who the players are, or just some robot that can distinguish a backhand from a forehand. I want someone who’s smart enough to give me good info, and even better, to know when to shut the hell up and bask in the beauty that is head-to-head competition.
It’s not that I think I’m too good for him, I just think that he’s not good enough for me.
Finally, Carol Lewis. Carol whois? I have never even heard of her, so I called on my friend Google. She’s the sister of Carl, and was also a big track star herself, excelling in the long jump. She made it onto the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. Still not making the connection to tennis? Me neither. So I dug further. Michael Hiestand of USA Today wrote a piece on her in February, where at the end of it she points out that she wasn’t picked for 2002 Winter Olympics coverage and jokingly says, “I’d love to do tennis on TV.”
Truth really is stranger than fiction.
Look ESPN, let’s get real for a minute here. I know that ESPN2 shows more tennis than any other network, including The Tennis Channel itself, but by bringing on the third-string squad you’re finally showing us fans what you really think of us.
I’ve loved you for a long time, and have been very devoted and loyal to you. I have even stuck up for you even though you simply syndicate AP wire stories on the tennis area of your website (yes, in the more section). I tolerate your weaknesses, like during Wimbledon when you don’t cut to outer courts at 9-9 in the 5th between top 30 players. Or that you rarely show live tennis when a match ends early and you have extra time (and I think I’m being generous, because the real answer is probably closer to, like, “never”). How many channels do you have anyway? You can’t show a women’s semifinal when billiards is on?! And let’s not even get into the whole doubles coverage thing or I will just start blubbering.
Look, what I’m simply trying to say is that now you’ve gone way too far. Since you obviously don’t care about me, why should I care about you? I’m sick of the way you take me for granted and barely even try to make me happy anymore.
I may not have many other choices, but I do have a mute button on my remote.
An American Tennis Fan
P.S. I really do cherish all the things you’ve done for me in the past, and I’ll never forget you. Maybe we can still be friends? Call me!
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