SBJ/September 12-18, 2011/Opinion

ESPN’s image takes a hit

I believe the HR undercurrent at ESPN is one of the company’s biggest threats. Case in point: college football writer Bruce Feldman’s departure last month, one of the ugliest exits I’ve ever seen. There are two sides to every story, and The Poynter Institute, in its role as ESPN ombudsman, seemed thorough in spreading blame between ESPN and Feldman. But as Bristol’s reach grows, these incidents will happen more frequently, and ESPN is being painted as a company that seeks to “get” those who leave on less than good terms. You don’t hear this as often at other media companies, and it has to sting ESPN’s top execs. The question is, How do they address it?

NET RESULTS: When it comes to TV talent, tennis has a deep bench. John McEnroe is one of the best analysts in sports – frank, humorous, and viewers of all ages can relate to him. Watching the U.S. Open, both CBS and ESPN are fortunate to have the likes of Patrick McEnroe (more diplomatic than John), Darren Cahill and Jim Courier (articulate ex-players who coach and can be critical), Chris Evert (surprisingly strong insight after a long absence from the booth), Mary Carillo (a little too much drama and painful puns) and old-timer Cliff Drysdale (who zigs when others zag). But, please: someone work with Brad Gilbert. He is amusing, but one can barely hear his voice during matches! Question for you: If you were watching one major sports event, which network and talent team would you want to watch? Let me know.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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