ESPN is a sports media conglomerate that largely, intentionally operates under the conceit that sports exist within a vacuum, untouched by the outside world except for instances in which the outside world intrudes on the sports universe. It’s a fallacious conceit, but it has some unintended positive consequences. Its solipsistic coverage of sports has allowed ESPN to manage to gather a stunning range of ideas and intellects, and is the only way a company could simultaneously employ the likes of Keith Olbermann, Jason Whitlock, Darren Rovell, Bomani Jones, Sarah Spain, and—holy shit, is that Will Cain?
Aye, the man in the screenshot above is indeed Will Cain. Will Cain is a career political sphincter best known for not actually being Tucker Carlson. He has long shat up your TV with his right-wing views on Fox News, and The Blaze, and CNN, and MSNBC, and anywhere else that will have him. He’s fun to watch! He works for ESPN now! What the fuck?!
The World Wide Leader dropped a press release today introducing Cain, who came on at ESPN in March, has appeared on Outside the Lines since, and “will primarily work with ESPN’s Features Unit and E:60 and see his work appear across ESPN’s various platforms.”
That’s great for Cain! The commentator’s first piece is one in which Cain embeds within the Biloxi Shuckers, a minor league baseball team currently in the midst of a 55-game road trip through the heart of our gorgeous nation. Along the way, perhaps, he will uncover some truth about baseball or America or, ojalá, both.
Cool. That’s a cool project. This concludes the newspeg portion of this article.
Far more interesting than his baseball piece, though, is that Cain—not a celebrity or superstar by any measure—appears positioned as a member of a small fraternity allowed to acknowledge the outside world in a company that forbids most from doing so. But Cain, somehow, isn’t even restricted from political commentary on other channels. Exhibit A, ostensibly, is Will Cain appearing on Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO just 11 short days ago.
In the segment, under the formal title of “Commentator, ESPN,” Cain played the role as Sports Expert as the panel tackled Ballghazi. Cain started by taking the stance that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s lying lies actually represented the greater sin in this scandal. It was a good move by Cain, because—as we’ve written about in this very space—Goodell’s harsh, whimsical punishment of the Pats was based on Brady obstructing the investigation in a manner befitting a B-movie villain.
ESPN football people are generally whores and shills for the NFL, so within that context, Cain was off to a great start. But then Cain morphed into his old role of Political Expert before our very eyes, connecting Brady’s lying to Anthony Weiner and Monica Lewinsky’s. Now this is more like it!
“Isn’t lying about blowjobs,” Bill Maher asked, “ way less important than lying about the things Republicans lie about? Like global warming isn’t real? Do you think Ted Cruz—who has degrees from Princeton and Harvard–do you really think he thinks global warming is a hoax, or does he know it’s true but he tells that to the rubes who vote for him? Because they believe it. Which is a worse lie?”
“I genuinely like debating you,” Cain responded, through audience applause. “One of your great failings is your inability to see the intellectual response in the global warming debate. The response which is: you can’t predict the future.”
Ah, that’s the good shit. The pure uncut. The Peruvian flake. Chop it up, Will.
“Thousands and millions of variables dictating what the climate will be 100 years from now,” Cain went on, “and you’re gonna give me Celsius it will be? That is intellectually dishonest.”
For the briefest moment, Cain looked like he may have just dropped the mic, but said moment was shattered after milliseconds by MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner, who asked, you know, what Will Cain was even talking about. To wit:
“What are you even talking about?” Wagner asked. “Like, you have to be a seer to make policy? What does that even mean? You ask the Republicans, like, should women be able to have abortions after 20 weeks. They have plenty to say on that, but when you ask about global warming: ‘I’m not a scientist, man.’”
Never mind that Cain transitioned from the stance that Lewinsky committed some crime by blowing Bill Clinton into the stance that modern science has yet to progress past the Stone Age, or that there isn’t a nigh-unanimous consensus that climate change is real and is already affecting our planet, as evidenced by historic droughts and miserable winters and polar ice caps that are melting right now, today, at this moment, and so on. It’s a hell of a thing that ESPN allowed Will Cain to show up in Maher’s studio. It’s a hell of a thing that he was allowed to shoot the shit with Maher about politics. It’s also a hell of a thing that this loquacious fleshbox of mayo incarnate was allowed to do so under the banner of ESPN.
A quick trip down the Will Cain rabbit hole shows that before ESPN, he rarely spoke about sports. More often, though, Cain has carved out a role as a shill who works to further the interests and ambitions of oil corporations, Republican political candidates who attempt to hoodwink and/or energize their base, and those who vilify women and/or minorities while denying their agency. Here, for example, is one other time Will Cain apprised the role of Sports Expert, defending the use of the term “Redskins” by Washington’s football team on The View:
What he certainly is not, however, is a reporter. So how did he get a reporting job at ESPN? What the fuck are they doing?
This is not a hypothetical. We asked ESPN today why The Man Who Would Be Tuck can go on shows and say that climate change is not real.
“This was a one-off,” an ESPN spokesperson said about the HBO appearance, “due to a prior arrangement before he was hired.”
Does that mean Cain will be prevented from going on other shows and talking politics and spitting this fire as an employee of ESPN?! The spox paused.
“I can’t say that he can’t make appearances on other shows or speak on politics.”