By now most everyone has heard about the stammering performance of NFL sideline reporter Sergio Dipp during Monday Night Football’s recent broadcast of the Broncos vs. Chargers game. It was bad. Real bad. You can watch it here if you doubt me.
But let’s set the record straight as to who is to blame for his performance. This wasn’t a bad case of nerves or lack of preparation on Dipp’s part. After all, the guy is a 29 year old, English-as-a-Second-Language reporter for ESPN Desportes, the network’s Spanish speaking channel. So the question is not what was with Dipp’s halting speech pattern. The question is what was Dipp doing on the sidelines for this primetime game in the first place.
ESPN has a wealth of talent. So much so that they’ve canned a lot of it recently. And why have they fired so many of their talented broadcasters? In the final analysis, it’s for the same reason you saw Dipp on the sideline yesterday: ESPN has become politics first, professionalism second, and it is costing them dearly.
The network now prides itself on its left-wing politics and commitment to progressive social crusades like “diversity,” and “inclusion.” When they are making personnel decisions they don’t look for the best, they look for the politically correct.
Remember, John Clayton and Ed Werder are no longer employed by the same network that puts Michael Smith and Jemele Hill on its signature Sports Center as hosts every night. Danny Kannell and Reese Waters are gone but Jalen Rose and David Jacoby still have a syndicated radio program.
And yes, Trent Dilfer’s football analysis is dismissed in deference to Sergio Dipp. None of this makes sense from a sheer quality standpoint. From the perspective of turning out the best product, this behavior is mindless. That is until you understand what is motivating the suits at ESPN is politics, not performance.
Take Smith and Hill’s SC6 program as a case study. The Federalist’s Ben Domenech gave this overly kind assessment of the actual show:
The SC6 branded show is not a good one, in part because you have two co-hosts who both are more serious and overly sincere than they are charismatic or quick with the snark. You don’t have the classic goofy/straight pairing, and they lack the tension of two co-hosts who disagree constantly. Neither is a particularly good interviewer, nor have they shown the ability to offer insight on sports that is deep, funny, or entertaining. The show is reduced to two fairly boring people sitting at a cramped table full of papers and laptops on a set that looks unchanged for the past twenty years talking about sports with less insight than a pair at the end of the neighborhood bar. Television is a visual medium, and visually, SC6 looks like local TV.
So how does it stay on the air? Why, when everyone else notices how bad of television it is, does ESPN stick with it? Probably the same reason that they stick with Hill even when she takes to Twitter and in extraordinarily undisciplined fashion goes on a multi-tweet tirade attacking the President of the United States as a “white supremacist:”
“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists. Trump is the most ignorant offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”
First, ESPN has suspended and fired hosts for a lot less than this. Keith Olbermann was originally suspended for insulting students at Penn State on Twitter. Tony Kornheiser was suspended for criticizing a colleague’s wardrobe. Bill Simmons was suspended for calling the NFL commissioner a “liar.”
Now I’m not suggesting that those men were undeserving of censure for their conduct. But if calling Roger Goodell a liar with proof and evidence is worthy of suspension, calling the President of the United States a white supremacist without proof and evidence surely should be as well.
But so far, ESPN has announced no sanctions on Hill – either for her lack of dignity, or her horrible on-air performances. Why? Because with as badly as she may fail standards of good broadcasting, she checks all the boxes of good social politics.
That’s why ESPN is popularly known now as MSNBC-with-Balls. It’s why they are hemorrhaging money and a giant albatross around the otherwise sturdy neck of Disney. It’s why their viewership, a majority of whom likely voted for the very politicians ESPN allows its anchors to regularly besmirch and slander, are desperately looking for some sports alternative. And it’s why Sergio Dipp found himself wandering the sidelines of a primetime NFL game last night.
It’s not right. It’s not smart. It’s not going to work. But that’s ESPN.