Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

Mark Shapiro's Many Missteps

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As we continue to glance backward at ESPN alpha dog Mark Shapiro's tenure, we take a look back at some of the more serious missteps during his reign.



"Quite Frankly With Stephen A. Smith". Whatever your thoughts on Stephen A. — though we suspect we know which direction most of you lean — this whole enterprise has been an unmitigated disaster. Launched with unprecedented fanfare (they were running ads for this on Salon), the show is a ratings black hole, Smith clearly struggles with sports that aren't the NBA and the show's awkward transitions are proof he desperately needs a Greg Anthony-type to play off. Scariest part about this: He has a four-year contract for the show, an albatross if there ever were one.
Everything PTI Hath Wrought. Once the formula was established by Kornheiser and Wilbon, Shapiro and company proceeded to run it into the ground, turning every bit of "original programming" into something from VH-1's "Best Week Ever." The worst is "Around the Horn," which encourages former journalists to make idiots out of themselves. More on this in a bit.
"ESPN Hollywood" and "Teammates." The former is the television equivalent of Page 3, and it's pretty clear how that has turned out. "Teammates" more often looks like it belongs on Logo than on ESPN.
All The Futzing With "Baseball Tonight." Once, "Baseball Tonight" was the end-all-be-all for baseball fans, a place where Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark and Harold Reynolds broke down the games' details with wit and precision. Now John Kruk and Larry Bowa compare wads of chewing tobacco.
Skip Bayless. We suspect even Skip is confused by Shapiro's dogged loyalty.
The General Degrading Of The Profession Of Sports Journalism. Writers whose work readers and fans had admired for years were put on television and instructed to act like chimps. Credits were given for confrontation and volume of one's voice rather than reporting skills or even grasp of the issues. To stay on the air and earn their nice TV paychecks, longtime sportswriters were forced to keep upping the ante just to make sure the golden goose stayed alive. The logical outcome of this was realized yesterday on "Cold Pizza" — another Shapiro misstep — when Woody Paige ate dogfood live on the air.

(Later: The close of our series, a look at the future without Shapiro.)

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