An Open Letter to ESPN
by Lynn Berenbaum | July 27th, 2006
  • 22 Comments

Dear 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.

Sincerely Yours,

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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22 Comments for An Open Letter to ESPN

Momofan Says:

Lynn, this is so good, I had to read it twice. You even beat Carlos Rodriguez aka C-Rod aka C-Fraud in this “open letter” stuff LOL. But let’s not forget what ticks us off MOST about ESPN2 — the apalling lack of coverage. I’m still not over this: during the Martina Hingis-Svetlana Kuznetsova 3rd round match at Miami this year, which was THE match of the tournie according to many, ESPN2 cut us off after the second set to show, off all things, the Kentucky bloody DERBY!!! During the third set which they neglected to show us, both women had several match points in the third set tiebreaker and the crowd was going crazy. Martina even challenged on the last point (match point for Sveta K.)! It was wild! And EStuPidN cut us off.

ESPN, and all your sick “love children” like ESPN2 and ESPN Classic, I will never forgive you for that. Now give back coverage to HBO PRONTO or I WILL turn to WimblyLive and its cousins!!


Off the Baseline » What You Missed By Blinking Says:

[...] Fan writes break-up letter to ESPN. Network responds that it was just using her for sex. [Dysfunctional Tennis Blog] [...]


PJ Says:

What happened to Pat Mac, Brad Gilbert, Mary Jo F., Mary C., or Pam Shriver as commentators. All of them are good AND know about tennis….. bring those guys back..


Penny Marshall Says:

I watch tennis on TSN in Canada and they pick it up from ESPN as do other countries. I lament the American biais of Pat and John Mac and others but PLEASE bring them back with Mary Jo, Mary and Pam. They do know tennis. Show some respect for world class athletes and their skills by reporting it accurately.


Eric Bergman Says:

Nice job Lynn! I fear your words are going to fall on deaf ears. This is all about money – how much the sponsors will pay for their 30 second slots…which impacts how much money they can spend on GOOD commentators. Johnny Mac, Mary Jo et al don’t come cheap, I suspect. We’re lucky we get them as much as we do, frankly.

Having said that, it doesn’t excuse the poor coverage of matches (“other” top 30 players, doubles, etc.). Don’t they realize that most club players do doubles? I think they’re missing a real opportunity on that one!

Maybe if we can get some better up-and-coming Americans, they’ll do better. I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse when Andre gives his final four-cornered kisses at the Open.


Leslie Avielo Says:

In fairness to Espn, tennis isn’t a very popular sport in the US, therefore, they don’t give it a lot of coverage. It’s all about profit.


Lynn Berenbaum Says:

Editorial Note: It seems that I confused a few people.

ESPN2 will have Cliff Drysdale, Mary Jo Fernandez, Chris Fowler, Pat Mac, and Pam Shriver on the job.

What I’m opposed to is the fact that ESPN is trying out new broadcasters who have been banished from other sports and know jack squat about tennis.

I get the profit-motive thing. ;)

And yea, Eric, I agree. I’m also starting to wonder if America’s hopes may hang on the likes of Paul Goldstein, so that swot at him for his blog may bite me in the arse.


Linda Palapala Says:

This is more about who I have to watch in order to see the best tennis players in the world. If I want to watch Rafael in a match, it most likely will have to be against Agassi or Roddick or Blake or some other unknown American player, because first and foremost ESPN believes that tennis is an American sport, not an international sport, and that Americans only want to see Americans play tennis.
Wrong. Tennis is the epitomy of international sport and my favorite players happen to be uh, not Americans. Tennis is unlike other American sports–we can cheer for Roger, Rafael and not feel disloyal to the U.S.
There are plenty of American tennis fans out there who would really like to see more international tennis matches instead of poker tournaments and domino tournaments.


MBB Says:

Bring back Fred Stolle! He was better than Mary Carillo, Chris Fowler, and Tim Ryan combined.

Heres my list of the announcers(by ranking, 1 is the best, etc.)

1. John Mcenroe
2. Patrick Mcenroe
3. Cliff Drysdale
4. Brad Gilbert(although he recently quit)
5. Mary Joe Fernandez
6. Pam Shriver
7. Jim Courier
8. Mary Carillo
9. Chris Fowler
10. Tim Ryan

I think thats all of them. There is one guy who is sometimes on NBC, but he is just there as a network representative I think. I dont think Tim Ryan knows the difference between a slice serve and a kick serve, much less a service line and a baseline…

The idea behind the whole coverage issue is not to appeal to us diehard tennis fans, because we are a minority(less than 1% of ESPN viewers easy). The idea is to appeal to people who dont know that much about tennis. Hate to break it to you folks, but not many people in the US know who Rafael Nadal is. Federer has just recently become more of a household name, but even still, he’s no Bjorn Borg. Tennis players are slowly losing their personalities. Theres no more John Mcenroe’s or Jimmy Connors. Its all stone faced grinders who never seem to say the wrong thing in press confrences. And those that can be a little more animate(roddick, safin, gimblestob) cant back it up with results.


Randy Meisner Says:

Don’t forget those choice, knowledgeable words of wisdom – calling a “win” when someone at the Stanford Women’s Tourney held serve…

That and 2,000 “Fernandez-esk” referrals brought out the airline bag for me…

Chunks were flowing!


Charlie Says:

I couldn’t have said it better myself Lynn!


Gary Says:

Sean McDonough is a thudding bore and his voice reminds me of Principal Skinner on the Simpson. Just awful.


Robert Beistel Says:

Is Cliff Drysdale sick or something? Did ESPN fire him. What’s the deal.


D Van Says:

ESPN *must* get rid of this Sean McDonough announcer. It sounds like he is just reading off an ATP.com bio of each player as he rattles off statistics in his horrible monotone voice and does not seem interested at all in the actual TENNIS being played on court.
BRING BACK DRYSDALE… he may have been slightly senile, but at least he and Patrick McEnroe had SOME chemistry together in the booth.
I now even miss Brad Gilbert, who I was never a big fan of because he could never pronounce the player’s names right and his constant use of baseball/boxing analogies, but at least he is a TENNIS guy and gave some good insight on the players.
Anyway…. McDonough (the robot programmed to read statistics) is HORRIBLE and I will MUTE the TV until he is replaced by a decent announcer.
I am also available to take his place. I assure you I can do a much better job than that cue card reading stiff. Thanks for this opportunity to share my opinion on this matter. Cheers!


Lynn Berenbaum Says:

I have created a petition for the removal of Mr. McDonough from tennis coverage, which can be found here. I figure that if we can get 1k or so fans to sign it, the network will take it seriously.

I included very tame language in the petition on purpose. In fact, my views in this matter can be found in the above blog post. I encourage people to sign the petition and include their own reasoning.

Thanks in advance,

Lynn


violetlowe Says:

Amen! Sean McDonough?!?? But I am sorry but he is the worst commentator, please please please someone tell him NOT to talk during points! And stop telling tennis fans statistics we already know!


» Video: Gimelblog to Reporter Says:

[...] Yo, Gimmie: Take some word-punching tips from Mary Jo’s new co-anchor Todd Harris. Ac-cen-tu-ate. It will help you in your new-found career. Which reminds me that it’s so nice to see the network make the smart move of moving Harris from sideline to match commentator. [...]


» ESPN Ruins Tennnis (again) Says:

[...] Yo, Gimmie: Take some word-punching tips from Mary Jo’s new co-anchor Todd Harris. Ac-cen-tu-ate, dahlink. It will help you in your new-found career. Which reminds me that it’s so nice to see the network make the smart move of moving Harris from sideline to match commentator. I feel the love, and it hurts. Not in a good way either. ((Ouch!)) [...]


Kelly Gleason Says:

Now that it appears we have successfully removed Sean McDonough from the booth, we need to do the same with Todd Harris. During yesterday’s (Aug.18th) women’s match with Ivonovic, he referred to her reaching “championship point” on match point. There should be a zero tolerance for a so-called professional making such an embarrassing comment. Like his previous referral to a player “being down” in a set when the players are simply on serve, this guy has no business with a microphone in his hand. ESPN2 needs to give its audience the respect they deserve and rid their broadcast of unqualified commentators. Macenroe, Drysdale, Fernandez, Shriver, Courier and even Chris Fowler are all excellent, both individually and as a team (of course, we all miss the wacky Brad Gilbert, and thank God we don’t have Tracey Austin anymore!) . ESPN should stop lowering its standards. They have a great thing going. Simply get rid of Todd Harris and all will be well!


MBB Says:

I feel like as long as an announcer doesn’t pretend he’s a “tennis expert,” there really shoudn’t be a problem. I agree, Sean McDonough was awful, but he did at least admit that he really shouldn’t have been announcing in the first place. In some ways its good to have a guy like that because he asks basic questions, which help the non-tennis playing audience out there, not that I’m supporting him or anything. I dont have a problem with an announcer flubbing on something like “championship point” vs. “match point” especially if he’s still starting out. I dont know if any of you cared to notice but our beloved combo of Cliffy and Pat both repeatedly mentioned during the Ferrero/Nadal match how Ferrero used to be NUMBER 2 in the world in 2003 and how he’s fallen off since. How about when he was NUMBER 1 in 2003, did Sharko forget that one?

Maybe its just me, but has anyone else noticed how Pam Shriver is like demoralized by being the on-court announcer? The most blatant comment came when she was finally in the box with Mcenroe and she goes: “Lets check in with our on-court announcer for a piece of useless information… wait a minute, she’s up here!” She also keeps complaining about how hot it is… cry me a river. This is the corporate world, you cant just dissapear for a year and expect to have the same job when you come back Pam. I would kill, and hope someday that I will, become a announcer, on-court or otherwise.

Justin Gimelstob was always a total media whore. He made up for the personality that the reporters couldn’t find in the top players. Only problem was that he never was around long enough at the tournament to actually be useful. It was inevitable that he would end up as a announcer, considering he already writes for ESPN anyways. I dont really like him but I’ll take him over Tim Ryan and Sean Mcdonough in a hearbeat.

Anyways, maybe they’ll get Pat Rafter to announce, only problem is he has that super thick Aussy accent so maybe thats not such a good idea. Its all one big headache for us fans, but whateva…


joe timmons Says:

wow- Lynn you have some serious issues! I have heard this type of rant before. Its called jealousy. Just because your a hack of a writer and the tv gods want nothing to do with you- take a pill and chill! The tennis tv folks know that the old dog announcers aren’t cutting it and while I agree that McDonough and Harris are green, I do think they bring a fresh look to tennis, a sport that is so stale most of the time it needs to be taken out and aired out once in a while. If it wasnt for Andres run and Federers domination what would you have? So to say that the announcers are an embarrasment is putting way too much on the announcers and not enough blame on the state of the sport. Look, do I think Sean and Todd are fantatstic, not right now but for their first few matches ever, I do think they have potential. Harris by the way is very good in college football and basketball, and McDonough is solid in football and baseball. I wonder how many journalism hacks ripped Keith Jackson, Bob Costas and Al Michaels because they didnt like the way they called a match, game or series? Be patient and lets reserve judgement until they have actually had a little time to get some experience.


Kyle Says:

Hey, I’ve been reading up on the community of angered ESPN watching tennis fans and I agree with you on most points, mainly the live coverage which ruins the entire high of my favorite players winning in close sets. It would be fine if I could stop myself from going to the tournaments site and looking up the scores live. On to my point of us uniting to possibly change something instead of just ranting. Go to http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?page=contact/espntv and lets tell ESPN what we think as the tennis fans of North America. (Please try to contain your anger which seems to effect your spelling when sending your complaint so ESPN takes it seriously)

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