It’s Super Bowl Sunday. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers will do battle in Dallas, Texas for the Lombardi Trophy. And after all of the dust settles, where will legions of football fans tune in for their weeks-long post-game breakdown?
ESPN, of course.
Bruce Feiler recently wrote in an articled titled “Dominating the Man Cave” for the New York Times: “ESPN may be the most under-acknowledged media powerhouse in the United States.” It’s the third-rated network on cable. Its revenues last year ($8.65 billion) made up 23 percent of the Walt Disney Company’s total revenues. Yet, it’s taken for granted by so many sports fans – men, in particular – that its success is largely unacknowledged.
The company pervades all aspects of the national sports media: television, radio, print, web. Yet its relationship with the athletic community can make covering topics like male infidelity and stupidity (see Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre) difficult and uncomfortable. Feiler writes:
“If this awkward mix of male sensitivity and insensitivity — running product through your hair while pinching the bottom of a colleague — sounds familiar, maybe it’s because it reflects (and perhaps shapes) a larger male ambiguity. ESPN encapsulates the same atmosphere of perpetual male adolescence that infuses Judd Apatow movies, all those grown-up Halo and Modern Warfare players, the endless movie superheroes.”
The men at ESPN may never have to grow up. But at least they all wear suits.