Sounds as if Michael Wilbon is expecting his tenure at ESPN to come to an abrupt end at some point.
This based on comments he made during a recent appearance on ESPN Radio’s nationally syndicated “Scott Van Pelt Show”. Substitute host Ryen Russillo – usually a co-host in Van Pelt’s presence – as you would expect, served up a Tim Tebow topic.
“If Tebow takes over [Mark] Sanchez [as Jets starting quarterback], it will be a story that’s… worth the coverage,” Russillo opined, before asking Wilbon if there would be a storyline in the NFL this season “that would eclipse” a changing of the guard under center for Gang Green.
“In the Bristol axis… around Boston and New York, no,” Wilbon replied.
What came next was perhaps a little insubordination from the longtime co-host of “Pardon The Interruption.”
“I hate to tell people this on our airwaves… but people west of the Hudson don’t give a damn. The Jets are not a national team; the Jets are not the Yankees or the Red Sox – and I’m using those two advisedly, because the Red Sox, they’re getting way too much attention, too, from Bristol.
“[Do you think] people in Chicago and St. Louis and even Los Angeles are talking about the Jets camp? They’re not,” Wilbon continued. “They’re talking about, you know, whatever it is with their football team; with the Rams in St. Louis, they’re talking about whether or not they’re gonna have a team in “X” number of years, and in Chicago, they’re talking about [Brian] Urlacher, and, you know, the south, whether it’s New Orleans, you know, whether they’re gonna have a team that’s competitive [in the wake of Bountygate suspensions]… I mean, it’s a huge story, in and around Bristol, for a hundred miles… It really isn’t in the other places I go and travel, and I do quite a bit.
“Like, in Dallas right now, where they’re looking at a team that looks like it’s gonna be pathetic again. Do they care about Tebow and the Jets?
“Even in Washington,” noted Wilbon – his “PTI” program is produced in D.C. – “RGIII [rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III] is 24/7. And Tebow and the Jets, eh… you know, not so much.
“In other words, seriously, do you think this is a big — and I realize, it’s a big — Tebow himself is a national story. The Jets are not. It’s like, they’re not even the Giants; they’re not the Giants.”
You mean, the Giants that just won their second Super Bowl in five years? And given all of the focus on the Jets after bringing in Tim Tebow, Eli Manning and company are being treated like second-class citizens, especially on ESPN.
“Now, I think there’s, like, a hundred storylines that people outside of the Bristol axis, will be much larger than Tebow and the Jets… Will that be reflected coming out of metropolitan New York? I doubt it, because I know how important it is there.”
Just to review, the Bristol axis-programmed ESPN has gone quite gaga over the Jets’ second-string quarterback lately. During the training camp period alone, they focused on a four-second out-of-context sound bite to make it sound like a reporter had addressed Mark Sanchez as “Tim,” when in actuality, she was in the process of starting a question that mentioned Tim when she was prematurely cut off; a ten-second clip of Tebow running shirtless in the rain ran continuously over the weekend on ESPN’s family of networks; and most recently, Tim Tebow turned 25 years old – and the Worldwide Leader was not shy in reminding viewers of this sports milestone.
In fact, Tebow learned just by watching ESPN at the team cafeteria that GQ magazine would be using a six-year-old photo taken at a University of Florida shoot for the cover of a future issue. “It was kind of a shocker to me,” he commented.
And it’s certainly no shocker that ESPN has evolved into the Tim Tebow network – even more so, now that he plays for a team in the top media market.
But the fact that visible figures are sounding off about Tebow’s overexposure on ESPN on ESPN’s own airwaves is somewhat shocking. Remember, earlier this week, the head coach of the Jets, Rex Ryan, remarked on ESPN Radio’s New York station – the flagship station of Jets radio broadcasts – that it seemed as if the Worldwide Leader has been doing their own version of “Hard Knocks” with their wall-to-wall coverage of Jets training camp (a thought first expressed on this blog, by the way).
But for one of ESPN’s biggest well-known personalities to take ESPN to task for its all-Tebow, all-the-time stance? That speaks volumes.
In fact, this isn’t necessarily the first time Wilbon has spoken out against his employer’s Tebow tilt. Listen to his comments at a Q&A session at his alma mater Northwestern University last year (scroll to the 5:45 mark):
(Q: “What do you say to people who accuse ESPN of trying to push particular stories?”) “People get lazy about those observations, like – which way they want to have it? Like ESPN is pushing Tebow; well, wasn’t it Merril Hoge, who works at ESPN, that people got on for killing Tebow? So I just – I tend to throw these things back at them. I go, ‘Really?’… Look, there’s no ESPN opinion. I don’t wake up and go, ‘ESPN, which way does the wind blow?’ I don’t care… I don’t know what everybody’s saying; usually, I don’t care.”
Nine months later, and all of a sudden, Michael Wilbon sounds like he very much cares about what has been unfolding on ESPN’s Tebow-tinted air.
And he says it on ESPN’s national radio network, to boot.
ESPN 98.7 in New York airs local programming opposite “The Scott Van Pelt Show,” so people in New York didn’t hear these comments. But I’d love to hear Michael Wilbon express a similar viewpoint on, say, Mike Lupica’s radio show. After all, if they can allow the Jets’ own head coach to berate ESPN’s extensive Tebow/Jets coverage, I’m sure they’d allow much worse.
Michael Wilbon spoke the truth – but it can’t sound good in ESPN higher-ups’ ears, unfortunately.
Better polish off that resume, Willy Buns.