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Monday, May 8, 2017

What’s the Score?

Several voices have been weighing in on the reasons for ESPN’s significant financial troubles. Like…We have new specialized sports channels on cable. ...The Internet gives us games on demand and sports results as we need them. ...Costly contracts that ESPN made with pro sports for game coverage have not paid off.

The once mighty and proud “go to” channel for all things sports is becoming a fading star. Ratings are down 16% this year compared to last. So in late April, ESPN terminated more than 100 employees. Many of these folks had a lot of talent. Some had been with the network a long time.

But another dreadful storyline has been developing at ESPN. Unfortunately, it’s being picked up in other sports coverage. I’m talking about the left wing political shift that has emerged from commentators.

This isn’t a view that I express in a vacuum. Clay Travis, with another sports reporting group called Outkick, has been on the case of ESPN’s unwise business practices for a while. He does not blame their downfall on the politics, but it’s a significant factor.

In a recent post, Travis wrote: “Middle America wants to pop a beer and listen to sports talk, they don’t want to be lectured about why Caitlyn Jenner is a hero, Michael Sam is the new Jackie Robinson of sports, and Colin Kaepernick is the Rosa Parks of football. ESPN made the mistake of trying to make liberal social media losers happy and as a result lost millions of viewers.”

Millions? Yes, millions. According to Travis, ESPN will have lost more than 15 million subscribers since 2011. Since January, more than 10,000 people have left ESPN every single day. The loss of those subscribers amounts to over $1.3 billion a year. Of course, if they can’t get them back, those losses keep growing.

To be fair, ESPN isn’t the only sports voice to make a big left turn in politics. I had to mute comments primarily made by Charles Barkley during the NCAA games for the same reason. Sports fans want game and player performance analysis—not mumbo jumbo on bathroom bills from a former hot shot NBA star.

Unfortunately, it’s taken an even worse turn on late night television. Stephen Colbert relishes his role in evening mockery of President Trump. Some claim his ratings jump has been because of this. Other late night hosts, who apparently are Trump haters, are pushing the limits as well.

Colbert got so out of control this past week that some wanted him axed. He made a rude and crude sexual reference about President Trump and Russian President Putin. CBS censors ignored the hugely offensive remark. Colbert made no apology.

It isn’t just that these comments are political. There is no other side. Just one.

Will this cost these networks in the long run? Good question. I no longer watch any late night television.

In His famed Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44, ESV)

A teaching to live by. However, Jesus didn’t say to keep tuning in for their trash talk.

And as for ESPN, I guess you don’t really know the score.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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