January 31, 2020

ESPN is one of the most valuable television networks in the world. Forbes estimated ESPN’s net worth was $40 billion in 2012, and $51 billion last year. It’s 2014 revenues were $4.5 billion. To put that in perspective, CBS, the top broadcast network in the USA, earned $1.6 billion that same year. A vast majority of ESPN’s revenue comes from the advertisements during major sporting events. Most profitable, successful companies protect their most valuable assets: great salesmen, unique products, etc. But the four-letter network fails in this regard.

The Green Bay Packers finished the 2019-20 NFL season with a 13-3 record and the number-2 seed in the NFL playoffs. They defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-23 in a grueling matchup at Lambeau Field on January 12 to advance to the NFC Championship Game. Their opponent was the San Francisco 49ers, who beat the Packers 37-8 in Week 12 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The 49ers used their huge, athletic offensive line, tenacious defensive line, and home field advantage to beat the Packers 37-20 in the rematch. Rodgers said during the post-game interview how difficult it is to get that far and that he cannot take it for granted in his 15th season. ESPN decided to rub salt in the Packers’ wounds.

The official ESPN Instagram account posted the foregoing meme shortly after the game ended. Sports memes are popular among fickle fans who love their hometown athletes one minute and hate them an hour later. But this type of behavior from a network that would not exist without the NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. is unsettling.

Professional athletes and positive self-talk

College football players spend more than 40 hours per week practicing, training and healing, according to a 2015 lawsuit filed by two former University of North Carolina players. That does not include travel and game time. There are no concrete numbers as to weekly practice and training time by NFL players, who are paid for their time unlike college athletes. But one can assume the time commitments are similar, and likely more stringent for the professional.

The work and commitment necessary to excel in professional sports is beyond comprehension for most people. The competition is against the best of the best. The most athletic and talented teams typically win at the collegiate level. That is not necessarily the case in the professional ranks. The Los Angeles Lakers were heavy favorites against the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals. The Lakers, lead by Shaquille O’Neal and the late, great Kobe Bryant, were expected to sweep the series and win their fourth championship in five years. The Pistons were simply hungrier and wanted it more.

Michael Jordan once said:

The reason I became such a successful athlete was my mind was saying that no matter who you put up against me, I am better, I am the best.

Granted he was usually the most talented player on the court throughout this career. But even the man referred as the “GOAT” by many understood the fine line between winning and losing. He frequently used positive self-talk to convince himself he was better than everyone else. Muhammad Ali may have been the greatest both in the boxing ring and at positive self talk. Few days passed that the former champ didn’t say, aloud, “I am the greatest.”

Meme culture and social media

Everyone has seen some variation on the “Crying Michael Jordan” meme.

The meme originated from Jordan’s emotional September 11, 2009 Hall of Fame induction speech. Social media have enabled this culture of normalized disrespect for even the most accomplished individuals. New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers fans “hated” Jordan in the 1990s. But they respected him because of his tenacity on the court. These types of memes, however, garner large engagement numbers. That is the goal of most social media users. This culture will thus continue minimizing the hard work and dedication of professional athletes for a quick laugh and social media clout.

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