The “Evil Empire.”
At least, that’s what they’ve been called from time to time. You know, those guys who buy their way to the top of the league. They’re willing to overpay just to take stars away from their top competitors. Then, utilizing their position atop the food chain, they attempt to call the shots and feed the fire that, ultimately, just ends up making them more profit. And the entire cyclical process can begin again.
No, not the New York Yankees. Though I have seen them cast in a similar light. Where did I see that? Oh, that’s right, on ESPN. That’s where I’ve seen that whole “Evil Empire” label branded upon George Steinbrenner & co. I guess it takes one to know one.
A recent article in the New York Times by Richard Perez-Pena has revealed a bit more of the truth behind irony-SPN. A network which is never hesitant to cast the Red Sox and Yankees of the sporting world as the corporate giants who drop their giant boot of cash down upon the rest of the competition, may just be the biggest perpetrators of such activity in sports.
More than anything, it’s just kind of funny. Among all the journalistic work reporting on free agency and the tactics used by big spenders, the guys on the business end of things were obviously paying attention just as closely as Peter Gammons.
“The numbers they throw around are out of reach.”
Sounds like something you’d hear from Royals or Marlins management. But no, that’s Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, a sports editor at the Washington Post, talking about ESPN’s uncanny ability to lure top writers. And making moves like offering Rick Reilly (undisclosed) dollars not only gives ESPN another big (white, middle-aged, snarky) gun, but, perhaps more importantly in the “Evil Empire” agenda, it takes a big staple of the competition out of the lineup. Remember when the Yankees signed Johnny Damon? Anybody?
Oh, and it doesn’t stop there. The article also discloses that ESPN charges, “by far,” the highest subscription rate of any cable network and more ads per magazine than its competition. You’re kidding, the same providers of such hardcore investigative pieces as the Coors Light Cold Hard Facts and Six Pack of Questions, the Hummer Press Pass, the Budweiser Hot Seat have more ads per issue than Sports Illustrated? (That bit of sarcasm brought to you by rich, chocolaty Ovaltine).
But easily my favorite part of this article (aside from the goofiness of a sports media outlet refusing to releasing contract information) comes right near the end when we get the distinguished opinion of sports agent, and general slime of the earth, Scott Boras. “It’s like going from a guppy to an octopus,” says the shark.
You just can’t make this stuff up. But I have an idea of who could if they wanted to…