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ESPN: The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight

The following is a true story. None of the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

One fine day very recently, a young guy named Dave McMenamin, who used to help NBA player Gilbert Arenas with his blog, and now is employed with ESPN.com, wrote a character-reference letter to a judge on behalf of the player whose blog he used to help write.

Arenas, whose blog the young guy helped write, is about to be sentenced in a D.C. court for bringing guns into his locker room, and threatening another player after a card game went terribly bad aboard an airplane.

Authorities say that while on the airplane Arenas threatened to shoot Washington Wizards teammate, Javaris Crittenton, in the face and then blow up his car. You'd think shooting the guy in the face would be more than enough, wouldn't you?

Sorry. Moving right along ...

Continue reading "ESPN: The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight" »

ESPN Goes Loco ... er, Local

Like a vulture swooping down on a defenseless, wounded animal, ESPN is embarking on a new venture by creating offshoots that cater to individual cities and regions. Our comrade Ryan Hudson of RealClearSports has some interesting details.

ESPN's first target is Chicago, ripe for the picking because it's a city of passionate sports fans - and its two local papers are in financial distress. The Tribune's parent company filed for bankruptcy protection last December, and its rival Sun-Times is arguably in worse shape.

It's certain that Chicago will be just the first of the many, as a number of major metros are easy preys:

Denver - Rocky Mountain News may be closing in a month. Denver Post's parent company Media News is in financial dire straits.

Seattle - The P-I is going out of business, barring an 11th-hour deal. The Times is asking state legislature for a tax break to stay afloat.

Twin Cities - Minneapolis Star-Tribune is in bankruptcy, St. Paul Pioneer Press is in worse shape.

Detroit - The two papers are cutting back deliveries to three days a week and are expected to slash staff if it doesn't go well.

Philadelphia - The joint operating company of the two papers just filed for bankruptcy, with the Daily News teetering on the brink.

These are but a few cities with at least an NFL and a Major League Baseball franchise. With ESPN's reach from its TV, radio and web properties, it's not difficult to see how it may pull this off with relatively low cost. In addition, these markets may offer ESPN a prime opportunity to scoop up freshly unemployed sportswriters on the cheap - don't think for a minute that this idea isn't on its business plan.

About a week ago Steven Stark, writing in the Boston Phoenix, suggested that newspapers may want to consider shrinking down to just sports papers with a little bit of local news thrown in it.

Can local papers charge something for what they're offering now on the Web? Well, yeah -- but not much. But let's say local papers beef up their sports sections, as suggested. Would there be an audience willing to pay more for that? Quite likely, particularly in sports-mad towns. And there might be some incentive for individual papers along the line to develop types of expertise they could sell -- say, rugby for one paper or international news in India and Pakistan for another, and so on.

Stark may be onto something there. Other than the national papers such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the sports section has always been the one that drives a paper's sales. (How many times have you been to a coffee shop to find a newspaper completely intact - only to realize that the sports section was missing?)

But if this is a survival strategy, the papers had better catch on fast. ESPN isn't going to wait.

ESPN Fumbles Redesign

When you have the most-trafficked sports site in the world and one of most popular sites, period, what would you do with it?

You fix something that ain't broke, of course.

ESPN.com unveiled its newly redesigned web site on Monday and surprise! ... everyone immediately hates it:

"The only thing worse than the Jets collapse is this new website."

"Activities I can complete while waiting for a page to load:

1. take a nap
2. have a three course meal
3. watch two and a half men"

"Absolutely terrible. First off, it doesn't work on my work computer. Second, there is so much stuff going on at the same time, it's dizzying. There should be a classic mode for those of us who want a simple ESPN w/o all the unnecessary extras. And I need it to function at work. This is the New Coke of internet sites. SO very bad."

Let me say I LOVE the new site. But there are a few things that could make it better...
1. More video-Why don't you merge with Youtube?
2. Not enough F-150 ads-LOVE the F-150
3. Not complicated enough-I like my websites to make me think I'm trying to figure out the space time continuum."

"OK.. who let the high school multimedia intern start making decisions in Bristol? "

These are but some of the hundreds complaints trickling in since the new site was launched. And these folks are the intrepid ones, for it's not really all that easy to even find the link to register complaints. As a public service, click here to write your own comments.

The three main problems with the redesign are 1) It's way too busy and it makes it difficult to find anything - plus some of the best features of the old site, such as drop-down menus for different sports, were eliminated. 2) As many readers pointed out, it takes a long time to load and sometimes it crashes the browser. Many users obviously look at the site at work and they don't have all day to wait for a simple page to come up. 3) The new design overwhelms with videos (which contributes to No. 2). A lot of people, surprisingly, still like to read.

The Watchdog fired off a couple of quick questions to ESPN and has yet to hear back. In the meantime, for you nostalgic sorts, here's what this fabulous site used to look like:

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