Another ESPN Creation Fizzles

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by Tommy Gimler

Think back to night of December 10, 2011. How shocked were you when ESPN opened SportsCenter with the impossible: Ryan Braun has tested positive for a PED?

Two “sources” had leaked to ESPN that the NL MVP had an elevated level of testosterone, triggering a positive drug test. The report went on for several minutes, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark was interviewed on what this meant for Braun and baseball.

Fast-forward to last night. Ryan Braun is cleared. The 11pm PT SportsCenter begins with a 15-second blurb that says Ryan Braun won’t be suspended and twice mentions how upset MLB is with the result. The following 18 minutes are filled with these much more important stories: Heat/Knicks, Lakers/Thunder, Nick Watney defeating Tiger Woods, and Danica Patrick wrecking during Daytona 500 duels.

I mean, can you believe that? A woman gets behind the wheel of a car going over 150 MPH and she wrecks. What are the odds? Please talk about it for five minutes instead of reporting on a story that you created several months ago.

The key word in that sentence: CREATED. The story ESPN broke on December 1oth was CREATED by two of their investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn. According to these two “journalists,” two “sources familiar with the case” told “Outside The Lines” Braun had tested positive.

Think about that. What does that even mean, “sources familiar with the case?” Who are these “sources?” Is it Bud Selig? The VP of MLB? An intern who was dropping coffee off and looked at a sheet of paper on somebody’s desk?

Herein lies the problem with ESPN and other major networks today. The goal is to get that breaking news story out before the other guy at any cost. The traditional rules of true, honest journalism are gone. Anybody can report anything about anybody as long as you have an unnamed source.

How dangerous is that? Ask Ryan Braun. For the rest of his life, Braun will have to fight off questions about steroid and PED use even though he has been cleared through the process MLB has created. Why? Because ESPN illegally broke this story in December. The following is taken directly from MLB’s Drug Testing Policy:

The Office of the Commissioner, the Association, HPAC, Club personnel, and all of their members, affiliates, agents, consultants and employees, are prohibited from publicly disclosing information about the Player’s test results, Initial Evaluation, diagnosis, Treatment Program (including whether a Player is on either the Clinical or Administrative Track), prognosis or compliance with the Program.

 

Some members of the media are asking for Ryan Braun to disclose whether or not he has a medical issue whose medication may have spiked his testosterone levels. Others want to know his perspective on why his test was positive.

Why is nobody questioning ESPN on this?

I think it’s amazing how ESPN isn’t aware or pretends not to know that they are the big part of the problem here. Tonight, SportsCenter anchor Neil Everett asked, “Is the damage already done?” Huh. You think?

Again, if you wouldn’t have illegally broken this story in December, then everything would have taken it’s course privately and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Instead of grilling Ryan Braun today when he talks to the media, people should be questioning ESPN’s reporting methods. And it doesn’t begin and end with just Ryan Braun. ESPN was quick to the trigger with Syracuse Assistant Coach Bernie Fine in late November as they broke the story of the “latest sex abuse on campus.” Since then, two “sources” have admitted to making false claims or doctoring emails yet Fine remains out of a job.

It would be a nice change if ESPN started practicing true, honest journalism instead of paying “sources” for information that isn’t factual and ruining the lives and careers of others.

When they make false claims because these “sources” have misinformed them, then I want to see apologies in the form of front page headlines. I want the CEO, president, VP, and all reporters involved to stand in front of the camera and sob as they say sorry, knowing that their actions have cost them their jobs and caused me to question anything they do in the future.

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