If you tune into ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” for any other reason than to watch a bunch of old guys laugh uncomfortably or stand around screens they don’t entirely understand how to work, then I assume it’s for information. Who’s injured, who’s being replaced as a starter, who got caught putting their dick in a hotel fish tank, that sort of thing. Of course, IN THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES, ESPN needs you to know what’s going on with COVID and the league. Does that mean it’ll be framed as the world-changing/crippling pandemic that it’s been, that has claimed 200,000 American lives? You know this is ESPN, right?
Yep, that’s right. A still-raging disease that has brought most of the world to its knees at some point is nothing more than a teaser for ESPN, because the real business is football. Or to get people to watch things related to and about football, for reals. Schefter treats this as nothing more than a surprise injury or coach’s decision, and something to be dangled to get you to tune in. That’s where we are. Pandemic as ratings.
Schefter probably felt comfortable using the virus as bait because it was just Senior VP of Officiating Al Riveron, whom most people won’t care about. Especially as Riveron doesn’t actually get on the field anymore, but works in the video command center for replays.
In some ways, that makes it worse. This is still a disease that puts everyone in the league at risk and could be easily argued as a reason they shouldn’t be playing at all. Schefter is now using it to draw in viewers as nothing more than a big sign like this:
This is obviously the issue with treating sports as normal at the moment. It minimizes the danger and seriousness of the pandemic, reducing it to just another thing outside of football, a simple malady that might fuck up your fantasy team or three-team parlay. And that’s just about the last thing anyone needs now.
It’s not ESPN’s job to cover COVID with the same approach as news networks, but they certainly have some sort of responsibility to treat it as more than just a teaser to get you to tune in. But then you might see the problem with football being played right now, which might mean you’re less likely to tune in to see the unveiling of the Raiders’ new stadium/swindle of local residents on Monday night.
Then again, we know that everyone involved in football — coaches, broadcasters, writers — is only vaguely aware of the outside world, so this isn’t a huge surprise.