ESPN announced today that it will be running a year-long feature “on every platform” that is meant to act as a celebration of college football. The introductory story, written by ESPN senior writer Ivan Maisel starts like this:
Hey there, America, we need to throw college football a yearlong tailgate, so invite everyone you know. For the next 12 months, hang time refers to bunting, not punting. Tell the helmet makers that all we need are party hats.
From there it goes all the places you’d expect, conjuring misty-eyed reflections on what college football means and how Teddy Roosevelt loved the game and how it’s the sinew that binds America together, or whatever. It all reads like it was written by a sentient Father’s Day card.
The word “amateurism” does not make an appearance in Maisel’s story, and “scandal” shows up once, as a castoff:
For the next 12 months, leading up to the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship in New Orleans, on every platform that ESPN has — television, radio, and digital — we will celebrate college football in all its glory, humanity, pathos and scandal.
Maybe ESPN’s series will effectively grapple with college football’s criminally exploitative labor model and issues like programs turning blind eye to gang rape, a celebrated football coach ignoring and then lying about how he handled a domestic violence accusation against his assistant coach, and a football player dying an “entirely preventable” death during a football practice, but it’s hard to say for sure because Maisel doesn’t get into any of that. He’s busy doing this:
College football gave us the phrase All-American, and other words and expressions that have enriched the American lexicon — quarterback, fight song, sideline, cheerleader, tailgate, redshirt, Hail Mary (the play, not the prayer) — on the field and off.
Players, young and talented and fresh and unsullied by wealth or fame, quickly capture our hearts and just as quickly move on. They come and go within five years, the best of them in as few as three. The same goes for coaches, too, except in reverse. Coaches used to get five years to build their programs. Now they are lucky to get three.
Praising unpaid college football players for being “unsullied by wealth or fame” is really all you need to know about this guy and ESPN’s forthcoming series, which, yes, is probably going to suck.