Joe Davidson of the SACRAMENTO BEE reports the negative reaction from coaches, school officials and media over ESPN’s methods of covering a local high school game Friday night.
Coaches said the sports network barged into Folsom this week, flexed its biceps and took control of seemingly every working detail of the Folsom-Grant encounter, turning a lot of heads and stomachs.
It was the overall sense of the ESPN superiority that flustered school and district officials who did their best to make this a smooth, memorable event.
ESPN, in conjunction with Paragon Marketing Group, requested the student bodies of both schools to engage in early morning, on-campus rallies. They pulled players out of class to do interviews.
But ESPN also softened – under a barrage of local media complaints. As of early Friday evening, ESPN insisted that local television outlets were to have no access to the field – meaning no highlights on their newscasts – but it was adjusted to limited access from the end zones.
All told, there were 117 credentialed media, and few had kind words of ESPN.
“I’ve covered eight Super Bowls and never had as many difficulties as I have with this game,” Fox 40 sports director Jim Crandell said.
Said Bryan May of KXTV-10: “I’m from Texas, where football is really big, and worked a game that had 75,000 fans – and it wasn’t like this. This is nuts.”
It’s one thing for the media to complain about the ESPN. It’s another when head coaches of both of the teams involved go on the record in their criticism of ESPN:
The coaches were glad to see ESPN arrive, then frowned as a season opener turned into a chaotic circus late in the week. And the coaches were collectively glad to send the “World Wide Leader” on its way.
“Playing the game,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said, “was the easy part.”
“The national exposure is great for the kids and the fans, but being told exactly what you could have on your sideline, like water buckets, is new to me,” Grant coach Mike Alberghini said. “During a game, I’m in a tunnel vision of thought and anger, but this was (different).
“I agree with the local media and (limited TV access). It’s the local paper and the local TV that put high school football in this town on the map, not ESPN.”
Alberghini said the money ESPN paid for carrying the game was “piddly.” Folsom officials said they had to wrestle for their $2,000 check, and they argued for Grant to get something, too. The Pacers received $1,000.
Maybe the epitome of the week was a phone call Richardson received during practice Wednesday. Amid the sound of drilling and the smell of welding for press-box upgrades during the 108-degree practice, Richardson was told his shipment had arrived.
Outside the stadium, he found pallets lined up with boxes full of sports-branded bottles and jugs with the explicit order to display them on the sideline.
No one had bothered to inform Folsom. It was a first: being told how to hydrate your players.
“I told them if they wanted the coolers back, we were just going to leave them on the field,” Richardson said.
I have an email into ESPN today for reaction to the myriad criticism.
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