Lebanon Reporter

February 6, 2013

ESPN is wrecking college basketball

By Eric Williams
Reporter columnist

— What is it about ESPN that makes them so loathsome yet completely irresistible simultaneously?

From steroids in baseball, to the Brett Favre saga, to Tim Tebow overload, ESPN truly is the only great, relatively inexpensive and 100 percent absolutely legal, mind-altering drug of our generation.

I’ll be the first to admit I once had a problem.

My life revolved around SportsCenter.

My days weren’t complete without it.

When my cable was out for a week I became irritable and lashed out at others, going so far as to dress my dog in a Mark Sanchez jersey screaming “You’re no Tebow!” at him.

But I’ve since moved on, after discovering a whole new world outside watching sports highlights on television exists and also after it became clear ESPN panders to a demographic that sees me as old and creepy. And so it’s only now, with the clairvoyant perspective one can only have from looking in from the outside, that things are clear.

ESPN brought its College Gameday show to Bloomington last weekend and the masses turned out to holler and carry on as if ours is some great dark corner of the world where nothing of note happens and nobody matters.

And in these moments, with the white hot spotlight upon them, the talking heads of the show are contractually obligated to fill air time and generate tweet-worthy commentary.

It should be enough to say Indiana junior guard Victor Oladipo is a really good college basketball player.

One who’s built himself from an unknown recruit to one of the best players in college.

 Instead they’re compelled to predict all that could go wrong with him in the NBA, as if a nine dollar snowglobe from the ESPN.com gift shop were a functioning crystal ball.

Different players wearing the same tired labels.

He’s too short, he’s not the prototypical NBA guard, he doesn’t have the range you need on the next level and he’s too nice so there’s no way he’ll ever shoot up a night club or openly complain about having to practice.

Indiana sophomore center Cody Zeller’s draft stock rises and falls on a near hourly basis as if being driven by the gravity of the moon.

Yes, Zeller was the single largest reason Indiana, and Tom Crean, turned things around.

In fact, in going from six wins to the top-ranked team in the country this week following their win over previous No. 1 Michigan, we haven’t seen a resurrection like this since Betty White turned up at halftime of the Super Bowl.

But he’s not going to be the next Tim Duncan and if you think that he is, perhaps you should take all the money you have and bury it in the backyard right now.  

It should be enough that Zeller has helped Indiana return to glory.

He was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, a three-time high school state champion and the Arthur L. Trester Mental Attitude Award winner.

What else do we need him to do? Find a cure for cancer on his way to the basket?

Leave the kid alone.

Let him be a college sophomore.

Celebrate him for who he is and not who he may or may not be someday.  

It’s simply exhausting.

ESPN has also become list happy, ranking everything from pre-game meals to anti-inflammatory creams.

Every player or coach they cover is the best at something; “He has to be the most talented left handed sixth man not born in the United States playing in college basketball today.”

Rank what they may and label what they will, ESPN and their millions still can’t fabricate moments like Christian Watford’s shot last season to defeat rival Kentucky.

The allure of these moments lies in the reaction, not the tease.

 So let your cameras roll ESPN for we want to witness all the nouns we wouldn’t normally.

In the meantime live by the mantra “produce more, pontificate less.”