Robert Lipsyte's first column as ESPN's ombudsman dissected the squirmworthy Chris Broussard-LZ Granderson showdown when Jason Collins came out. It's just as ombudsy as you like it, 3,300 words of media-ethics spinach. Lipsyte swings his prose like a lead pipe when he sees a deserving target; his reserved tone here suggests he doesn't think anyone needs to be roughed up too thoroughly, which itself signals that there's not as much story here as we'd hope.
More context would have made the [Outside the Lines] show far better. It was thin on the meaning of Collins' coming out and overly focused on two men discussing the differences in their Christian outlooks. And even the schisms in jock Christianity could have been made more pertinent. NASCAR drivers, who have incorporated religious services into their prerace rituals, are privately contemptuous of the 'stick-and-ball' athletes who pray to 'trinket Gods' to bring them luck.
Of course, it's easy to recline and tell a live show that they could've done better by adding context. What Lipsyte misses, perhaps, is that Broussard's flatulent detour into fire and brimstone made for good TV. Pertinently, viewers seemed to agree: Lipsyte's overflowing inbox was about 60 percent pro-Broussard, evenly split between people who thought his "open rebellion to God" comment was healthy faith in action and those who saw it as free speech. The remainder, too, was divided between those wanted the network to discipline Broussard and those who said all this talk of sex and whatnot shouldn't be on the sports shows because think of the children, like such as.
Lipsyte also found that between the principles involved, including host Steve Weissman and ESPN John Skipper, were perfectly happy to move ahead after the quasi-debacle. He wonders then if this is a matter of the "Jock Culture sensibility of not dwelling on an error" creeping into the network — taking things one day at a time, having a short memory, all that postgame pap settling over Bristol's brains like a claptrap miasma. Lipsyte regards ESPN as far less prone to introspection than its audiences would like. As ombudsman he may succeed in his charge, and leave ESPN a smarter, more thoughtful, more human institution. But then think how bored John Koblin would be.
What are commentary boundaries at ESPN? [ESPN.com]
Photo credit of Jason Collins at a Boston pride event: AP