ESPN’s recent spending spree on Troy Aikman, Joe Buck, Adam Schefter, and Adrian Wojnarowski will soon be problematic.
The Worldwide Leader in Woke will be forced to explain why it dumped $250 million in contracts on four white men in a span of one month. These types of explanations are necessary when businesses embrace diversity, inclusion, and equity (D.I.E.) mandates established by the BLM-LGBTQIA+ Alphabet Mafia.
Every decision, not just hiring decisions, has a racial, gender, sexuality, and political component that must be met. If certain boxes are not checked, Jemele Hill, Elle Duncan, Maria Taylor, and their Alphabet Mafia allies running corporate human resources departments huddle to plot their revenge.
The only thing more dangerous than a scorned woman is a pack of them in partnership with biological men looking to emote feminine energy.
Aikman, Buck, Schefter, and Wojnarowski now join their black heterosexual ally Stephen A. Smith atop the Alphabet Mafia’s ESPN hit list. Jimmy Pitaro, the ESPN executive who authorized their contracts, probably thinks of these men as the network’s Fab Five. They’re certainly paid like basketball stars. Aikman earns a reported $18 million a year, Buck earns $15 million, Smith $13 million, Schefter $9 million, and Wojnarowski $7 million.
“Green with envy” does not adequately describe the waiting-to-exhale text thread circulating among Hill, Duncan, Taylor, Malika Andrews, Cari Champion, Josina Anderson, Mina Kimes, Sarah Spain, Lia Thomas, and Bomani Jones. In that fictional thread, the Fab Five are referred to as “Stephen A. and the Blowfish,” and the album is called “Cracker Rear View.”
Not all of the complaints will be unjustified. Schefter and Wojnarowski are grossly overpaid. Twitter should be paying them, not ESPN. I like and respect Schefter and his work ethic. I respect Wojnarowki’s work ethic, too. But they can both be replaced. No one turns on the TV to see Adam Schefter or Adrian Wojnarowski. We follow them on Twitter for their information. They’re handed information from NFL and NBA insiders because ESPN is still the most powerful TV platform to disseminate information about those leagues.
Schefter’s primary value is that he’s willing to live a miserable life attached to several cell phones at all times. Fox’s Jay Glazer quit that lifestyle several years ago. Few people are willing to make the lifestyle sacrifice Schefter makes. That sacrifice is worth $4 or $5 million a year.
Wojnarowski is obscenely overpaid. He is embarrassingly bad on TV. He’s virtually worthless on air. He’s solely a Twitter feed. Years ago, when he worked at Yahoo Sports, Wojnarowski wrote influential and insightful columns about the NBA. He no longer does this. He tweets. He’s either unwilling to share what he knows about NBA culture, or he only knows NBA transactions. He’s newspaper agate. He’s an agate clerk being paid like a lead newspaper columnist.
Brian Windhorst, Shams Charnia, and Chris Haynes could replace Wojnarowski tomorrow without impacting ESPN’s business model. Wojnarowki is worth $2 million.
I have no problem with the money ESPN paid to lure Aikman and Buck from Fox Sports. They’re worth it. Their arrival dramatically impacts the perception of ESPN’s NFL coverage.
Under previous ESPN president John Skipper, the network created the perception that it hated football. The “Monday Night Football” broadcast booth was turned into a shrine for the LGBTQIA+ community when Skipper paired coaching legend Jon Gruden with Sean McDonough and Lisa Salters. The replacement booths featuring Steve Levy, Jason Witten, Booger McFarland, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick barely improved the Alphabet Squad.
Aikman and Buck know how to sell football. They appear to love the game. Their addition to ESPN will make the NFL more comfortable improving the “MNF” schedule. Given the broadcasting shake-up across ESPN, Fox, and NBC, you could argue that Monday night might replace Sunday night as the NFL’s most important destination. That alone makes Aikman and Buck worth every penny spent.
As for Stephen A. Smith? Of course, he’s overpaid. His signature show, "First Take," averages 400,000 viewers. He’s paid like he’s Tucker Carlson, who averages close to 4 million viewers. In fairness, Carlson’s show is half as long as Smith’s. But Carlson is a singular host, not reliant on a co-host or a rotating cast of debate partners. Smith is a barbershop gimmick supported by props. “Debate” is the star of Smith’s gimmick, not his own talent. The same holds true for Skip Bayless.
After the success of Tony Kornheiser, Mike Wilbon, and "Pardon the Interruption," sports TV networks let a charlatan (Jamie Horowitz) convince ESPN and Fox Sports that “debate” was the draw, then paid the marginally talented trolls like they were must-see TV. The flawed concept and saturation wound up diminishing the real talent and chemistry between Kornheiser and Wilbon.
In terms of audience, the “debate” shows have a very limited ceiling, but that hasn’t stopped ESPN and Fox Sports from overpaying for their trolls, race-baiters, and shouters.
Nothing has changed about television talk shows since syndicated columnist Ed Sullivan debuted "Toast of the Town" in 1948. It was later renamed "The Ed Sullivan Show." TV talk is always about the talent, likability, and point of view of the host. It was true for Sullivan, Johnny Carson, Dave Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Arsenio Hall, Jon Stewart, Bill O’Reilly, and Rachel Maddow.
No one tuned in to see Carson debate Ed McMahon. Forced debate is a telltale sign of a lack of talent.
So is the argument that justifies jobs on the basis of diversity, inclusion, and equity. D.I.E. will be the death of ESPN.
Stephen A. and the Blowhards ruined sports TV.