Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I was quiet when ESPN began hassling and editing content from Bill Simmons. I said nothing when they suspended Tony Kornheiser for offhanded remarks about a colleague. But now they have rubbed out former co-host of ESPN's Baseball Today podcast, Peter Pascarelli, for daring to make a joke about the commissioner of Major League Baseball and they've done it in an old school Soviet style.
During the February 11th installment of Baseball Today, Eric Karabell was running through a series of news events, one of which was the news that the Brewers had announced that they would be erecting a statue of Bud Selig outside of Miller Park. To which Pascarelli replied:
"I think that's great. It's a good target for pigeons all over Wisconsin."
Good luck finding those comments now. They were edited (clumsily, I might add) out of the podcast within 24 hours and the next day an unscheduled and abbreviated podcast from Baseball Today appeared in my iTunes queue. But this was not your typical episode as it featured a solo Pascarelli bowing and scraping as he apologized for his comments about Selig and went on to sing the praises and accomplishments of the current baseball commissioner. It came off with all the sincerity and comfort of an Al-Qaeda hostage video.
That was it. That's the last we have heard of Pascarelli on the Baseball Today podcast. Two weeks later, Eric Karabell hosted an episode as a solo host and interviewed Buster Olney the whole time. Two weeks later Karabell returned with new co-host Seth Everett, who works for Sirius-XM's MLB Home Plate channel (where he is a passable if forgettable host) and they proceeded to do the most vanilla, most safe, controversy free podcast you'd ever want to hear. Karabell addressed the Pascarelli situation briefly and uncomfortably. "I want to thank Peter...(as he) focuses on other initiatives within ESPN. He has not lost his job..."
But while Spring Training is in full swing, there has been nothing from Peter on ESPN.com for nearly a month. Similarly, Baseball Today is going on two weeks without a new show while the baseball world moves on.
Outside of some of the print guys who write for ESPN.com, Bill Simmon's "The BS Report" and the "Baseball Today" podcasts were the only things worth watching or listening to on the Worldwide Leader. The removal of an entertaining and honest commentator like Pascarelli cuts that list in half.
As ESPN continues to attempt to sanitize it's programming and censor offending opinions, it becomes less relevant. ESPN now views the professional sports leagues and the NCAA as business partners first and foremost; they no longer can cover them with an objective eye. ESPN's programming outside of the actual sports broadcast can never be taken seriously again. They have shown themselves to be shameless shills for the leagues they "cover".
They also seem to have forgotten that the "E" used to stand for "Entertainment".
Perhaps CounterPunch.org's Billy Wharton overstates the case a bit but I think he sums it up better than I:
Peter Pascarelli made me laugh. He said what is on the minds of real baseball fans when we gather for a beer or sneak in a conversation during the work day. He was our voice. His honesty, his cynicism and his clear passion to defend the way the game should be played, provided some hope for honesty in era where baseball has gone corporate. Silencing his voice diminishes our national pastime and moves us one more step away from freedom of speech and the press.