Sports media, President Donald Trump, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and anyone else hinting at a fall return of sports took a brutal beating from Jay Mariotti in a Monday post on Barrett Sports Media. With carnage on the streets and the world nearing its end, this is absolutely the worst time in history to stick to sports, the bombastic Mariotti vented.
As frantic sports media stoop to trivialities in filling time and space, Mariotti says ESPN's Adam Schefter deserves a lifetime award for "Best Commentary During a Pandemic by a Media Professional." Schefter excoriated the NFL for planning to plunge ahead with its annual April draft and talking about starting the league season on time in the fall.
"Scared, proud and nobody’s corporate puppet, Schefter spoke for many of us appalled by the league’s hubris and audacity during an apocalyptic lockdown," writes Mariotti (seen in above photo):
"This might be the end of the world as we know it. But before our collective societal demise, as the death toll soars and cloth masks become life-or-death necessities, Roger Goodell still must conduct his NFL Draft this month."
Schefter had previously raged on ESPN: “The draft is happening only through the sheer force and determination and lack of foresight from the NFL, frankly. They are determined to put this on while there is carnage in the streets!’’
As for President Trump, he's ready for some football and "has returned to the same delusional rabbit hole, recklessly suggesting sports could resume, with fans in stadiums and arenas, as soon as August. This only creates false and baseless hope for major commissioners — and ailing sports media — that games and events will be played 'sooner than later.’ Just last week, Trump described the coronavirus as 'the invisible enemy,' referring to the crisis as 'the worst thing this country has probably ever seen.' Now he’s vacillating again, stating the NFL season should start as scheduled in September when anyone who hazards such guesses is lying."
Trump is "ignoring the massacre and misery" for saying fans are looking forward to the return of sports. Mariotti believes it absurd to think Americans suddenly will cram into stadiums anytime soon and wonders if Trump has considered the infectious dangers for athletes and fans, which are unclear:
"Trump has planted a seed for desperate leagues and sports media to embrace when, in any sane context, all parties should be assuming sports will be shut down for the long term. For commissioners such as Goodell and sports media companies adrift without live sports and relevance, Trump’s words are catnip — a fleeting tease."
California's far left Gov. Gavin Newsom is the "voice of reason" who doesn't anticipate football returning in the fall in his state.
Mariotti blisters Trump for wanting to kickstart a broken economy, "but he cannot do so at the expense of human fear and grim optics. This is what Schefter was pointing out, magnificently, about the NFL Draft. If only he’d continued to comment on ESPN, a co-conspirator with the league, for merrily agreeing to air the stink bomb over two networks. ...":
"It wasn’t his intention, but Schefter also was making a sweeping statement about his own wobbling and crumbling industry: This is the absolute worst time in history to be sticking to sports. As if trying to speak leagues and events back into existence when they might not return for a very long time, outlets ranging from TV networks to content verticals to talk radio carry on with the day’s usual sports ledger when THERE ARE NO SPORTS. Are they really pretending the coronavirus is someone else’s problem? ... "
Mariotti accuses his media colleagues, oblivious to "agony outside the false bubble," of wearing blinders. He begs them to adopt an urgent perspective to stop retreating and surrendering, to "get out of the sports sandbox and use an extraordinary moment to showcase intelligence and expertise as journalists, voicing opinions and experiences that resonate among the frightened, isolated millions."
Admitting the wayward drift of sports media, Mariotti says the volatile world of sports media "faces an existential crossroads that, much like America and Planet Earth, will leave things eerily unrecognizable when the devil finally lets us come up for air. I see a business that is lost and tanking, in the vernacular, without games and news to disseminate and dissect. The modus operandi is to hang on for dear life in a safe, nothing-but-sports editorial mode as companies plan layoffs, pay cuts, furloughs while hoping Trump is right. When it turns out he’s wrong, the shutdowns will begin. ..."
We can only pray that Schefter and "other voices of his higher mindset" will perform CPR on this dying industry and further over-inflate its false sense of self-importance. "In times of crisis, we are not 'sports media people;' as much as thoughtful human beings, many skilled and resourceful, who should be seizing the pandemic as a tragic but unique opportunity to elevate as reporters, storytellers and robust commentators. ..." Sports outlets need to stop "succumbing as mindless toy departments amid a global disaster, thinking they need to distract and divert."
Schefter's boldness may have damaged ESPN's relationship with the NFL, but, "That’s why he wins the lifetime award," Mariotti insists. "Internal politics didn’t matter to him when a bigger message had to be sent," and he did so at a network where on-air talent has been warned to stick to sports. Fallout be damned, and Schefter should be celebrated, Mariotti writes.