Henry Schulman, who does a quality job as beat writer for the MLB Giants at SFGate.com, recently took a hefty swipe at ESPN for mocking Giants catcher Bengie Molina last week.
During SportsCenter, ESPN showed the notoriously slow Molina slogging around the bases to the Chariots of Fire theme, as the anchors giggled in the background. Molina has since chimed in himself this week on his MLB.com blog, writing that ESPN’s depiction of him was, “hard to take.”
I want to take Molina’s complaint seriously, but it was prompted by a Schulman piece that seemed driven as much by a general disdain for all things ESPN as it was critiquing SportsCenter’s so-called lack of respect for the Giants catcher.
The Schulman piece in question sets up the ESPN-Molina note with these grafs:
I took a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale to New York this morning, so I got to watch ESPN’s morning “SportsCenter” at 10 o’clock. “SportsCenter” used to be a must-watch but now is more of a self-parody, with its New York/Boston view of the world and star idolatry (Favre, LeBron, Terrell, etc…). But I watch it because part of my job is staying informed.
Frankly, it’s getting harder for me to understand why anybody in the Bay Area ever would watch an episode of “SportsCenter” anymore. Anyone watching this morning probably retched.
When the Giants finished their sweep of Florida on Thursday night, they achieved the best record in the National League at 17-10. It took ESPN 40 minutes to show the Giants’ highlight, and here is what it consisted of:
Schulman then tags the piece with, “Next time I’m on JetBlue, I’ll just watch the Cartoon Network.”
By framing his ESPN criticism with those general, hyperbolic opinions about SportsCenter - and the entire sports network - Schulman reduces the credibility of his critique about the news program’s handling of Molina.
I’ve been constant critic of ESPN in the 10 years I’ve written this blog and spent nine years myself covering and traveling with MLB and minor league baseball clubs every single day throughout the season. I’ve been in clubhouses many times when players and managers went nuts over fair and unfair negative media coverage.
If it wasn’t for Schulman’s predisposed, pre-emptive piece about Molina on SportsCenter, I believe there’s a half-a-chance the catcher’s teammates would’ve had the same ESPN highlight playing in the clubhouse the next day - accompanied by howls of laughter.
To be fair, I do think ESPN SportsCenter did go over the line in its portrayal of Molina in that situation. If Bristol was going to air such a clip, it should’ve been on SportsNation or Jim Rome is Burning. Not in the context of objective news coverage.
And I get Schulman’s frustration about ESPN. I’ve been railing against the network for a decade. But in using the Molina thing, which was somewhat harmless, as a vehicle to completely condemn all manner of ESPN comes off as contrived. I’m not saying Schulman isn’t genuine in his belief about the ESPN-Molina thing, but he dumbed down the piece with his own cheap shots at the sports network.
There’s a lot of things that make me want to turn off ESPN, but Bengie Molina running in slow motion to Chariots of Fire isn’t one of them.