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Sarah Spain & The ESPN Machine: A Critical Perspective

I’m going to admit – I didn’t know too much about Sarah Spain before today. I knew she was a regular contributor on the ESPN and espnW websites, and … that’s about it.

After today’s “Numbers Never Lie,” however, I do know one thing:

I think I love her.

And she's a Cubs fan, huh? I mean, I'm a Giants guy, myself, but ... I digress.

And she’s a Cubs fan, huh? I mean, I’m a Giants guy, myself, but … I digress.

She was subbing for regular co-host Jemele Hill on the debate show, joining Michael Smith and Jorge Sedano for the day. Now, keep in mind that the playoffs are in full swing, with crazy storylines unfolding and games coming down to the wire – all debate-worthy.

But what do the show’s producers choose for one of their main headline topics?

Should the Knicks be kicking themselves [that] they didn’t get the 8th seed?” 

Exactly.

Exactly.

It’s enough to make you facepalm and for your eyes to roll at the same time.

But, it’s pretty much par for the course, in terms of stories ESPN zeroes in on these days. Countless times have I seen it’s neighboring morning debate show, “First Take”, rehash the same topics over and over – most of which are centered on East Coast teams.

(Take 40 minutes and three segments to talk about what’s wrong with LeBron and Co., but GOD FORBID you talk about either of the Giants’ World Series wins …)

After Sedano lent his two cents on the subject – essentially that they should, considering the Pacers are struggling right now -Spain went off on a mini-tirade, aimed squarely at both Knicks fans and her own parent company:

The Knicks are not playing, OK? I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’m from Chicago, but this is the East Coast bias that people talk about. The NBA playoffs are going on, there’s tons of matchups to talk about, there’s actual teams playing in the playoffs, and you guys want to talk about whether the Knicks should be mad that they didn’t make it, should be kicking themselves. Well, let me tell you something, Knicks fans, come here. Come here, Knicks fans. You’re out. We’re not gonna talk about you for a while. Just sit over there and wait ’til the playoffs are done, OK? Buh-bye.

What’s more – it actually left Smith, usually not without a plethora of words, essentially speechless.

Here – you can watch the entire beautiful segment for yourself:

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Now, could her candor have been a little more tactful towards a large fanbase that is still hurting about missing the postseason? Sure.

But no matter what you think about her approach, or her brazenness about the topic in general, she rightfully called out ESPN and the show – two entities she is directly connected with – on what many in social media have accused them of: East Coast Bias.

Ohhh, SNAP!!!

Ohhh, SNAP!!!

Sure, the company has every right to have it, considering ESPN is based in Bristol, CT, and many of their viewers around those time slots are in the Eastern time zone. Hell, they needed to set up another base in Los Angeles just to keep in touch with an area three time zones away.

But that doesn’t dispel her argument – the fact remained that she was absolutely right: there is no good reason that, in the middle of the NBA postseason – where there are stories, debates and talking points abound – “Numbers Never Lie”, and shows like it, continues to choose topics about an NBA team that isn’t even playing anymore.

However, in all the “shock and awe” rhetoric, I feel like Spain’s main point was being drowned out. It goes to the pattern that shows like “Numbers Never Lie” and “First Take” often run with, in their choice of topics: appeal to the largest demographics possible (read: Knicks fans, Lakers fans, etc.), no matter how relevant – or, in this case, irrelevant – said demographics are at the moment.

If you have a problem with that previous statement, or happen to fall into the referred-to demographic, go back, re-read the question that was asked, and come back to me – is that REALLY the kind of pointless, fluffed-up drivel you want to listen to?

I mean, I get it – I’m a 49ers fan. But, that doesn’t mean I want to listen to a 15-minute debate about whether or not the Niners should feel bad about losing out to the Seattle Seahawks in the “Terrelle Pryor Sweepstakes”.

Yes. That was a thing.

Yes. That was a thing.

Ultimately, Spain basically said what was on a lot of people’s minds – people who happen to like shows like “First Take”, “Numbers Never Lie,” and “Pardon The Interruption”; but hate the fact that they re-hash the same tired topics over and over, for the sake of perpetuating stale, and dare I say, outdated, ratings-grabbing tactics.

I almost hate to say it, but Spain essentially summed up what I spent an entire Master’s Degree Project at TCU trying to explain: despite the popularity of some topics, big media hubs shouldn’t be surprised when people voice their displeasure at the oversaturation of said topics – especially at the expense of other more content-rich stories.

Ironically, can you guess what the show’s topic-at-hand was after Spain’s tirade? You guessed it: Another Knicks topic.

In any case, I’ll just say this one more time: Sarah Spain is, and will remain, my hero.

Heroine? Is it "heroine"? Sorry - I think it's "heroine."

“Heroine”? Is it “heroine”? Sorry – I think it’s “heroine.”

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