Doug Gottlieb, the former ESPN Radio host now bound for CBS, did an exit interview on The Dan Patrick Show today and confirmed what we all suspected. But to hear it spelled out this explicitly? Hoo boy. The symbiotic relationship between ESPN and Tebow is fertilized by orders from above, according to Gottlieb:
I was told specifically, 'You can't talk enough Tebow.' I would jokingly throw it into a segment. 'I gotta find 15 seconds here to talk about Tebow, all right let's move on and talk about Major League Baseball.'
Is it ridiculous how much you have to talk about Tebow? Yeah! But for whatever reason people can't get enough of that story, and they kind of stoke the fire—that's kind of what ESPN does.
Gottlieb also told Patrick that there was an in-house TV channel at ESPN, for producers and on-air talent looking for material, that laid out a list of trending topics. Not surprisingly, Tebow was always at the top of the list.
Patrick asked Gottlieb if ESPN reports news or creates it, and Gottlieb said, correctly, "both." Patrick summed up the tension between ESPN's news wing and its entertainment division quite well:
They've lost that credibility, a large portion of the credibility of covering news. I think that it's now: ‘What's trending?' Focus groups. You're trying to create things there. Bernie Fine story at Syracuse. Where's that? The New Orleans story with the Saints with Mickey Loomis? Where's that? Where are those stories? Those are big stories that you guys created. You were late on the Joe Paterno story. I think there's just a different mindset from what they're doing and how they're covering it. And they always fall back on ‘Well, Bob Ley covers the serious news stories.' SportsCenter should be covering sports, they should be covering the news. I think they created it with Tebow. And ESPN embarrassed themselves in spending a week out there at Jets camp.
Here's the audio of Gottlieb on The Dan Patrick Show, talking Tebow: