Viewpoint: ESPN highlights unequally

Sports media is dominated by ESPN. Its round-the-clock coverage on Sportscenter, paired with its engaging talk shows, such as “First Take” and “Pardon the Interruption,” constantly serves multitudes of sports fans around the world.

Though ESPN has always been my go-to channel when turning on the TV, lately it’s been disappointing.

If one were to predict before this NBA season that the largest sports conglomerate in the world would consistently cover, analyze and debate an underachieving, below-.500 team, that person would sound ridiculous.

However, that indeed is what’s been happening for months now. The Los Angeles Lakers, usually a Western Conference contender, continue to struggle mightily due to injuries, lack of team chemistry and coaching issues.

ESPN continues to devote time on Sportscenter and its other shows to the Lakers. From press conferences to player tweets, every aspect of the team’s season is discussed on a daily basis.

To the average sports fan craving a wide variety of sports coverage, constant Lakers news gets a little old, especially when other teams around the NBA see great success.
The Spurs, for example, are continuing their dominance. The Thunder are shortly behind in second place. Even the Milwaukee Bucks have better playoff chances than the Lakers. In fact, more than half of the league has better playoff chances, yet none of these teams get the media attention they deserve.

This leads us to the obvious question: Why do the Lakers get so much attention?

Los Angeles is a big media market. It’s a hotbed of Hollywood celebrities and constant drama. The team is similar.

Kobe Bryant, easily one of the best basketball players of all time, provides flashy highlights and intense competitiveness. Metta World Peace, formerly Ron Artest, is an off-the-rails character who seems to always have suspension looming.

Dwight Howard and Steve Nash are also newcomers with successful pasts and high expectations that aren’t panning out.

Their former coach, former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, was fired after only a few games and replaced by Mike D’Antoni, an offensive guru.

Though the storylines seem countless, any other struggling, small-town team would not be getting the attention. We’ve actually seen this before from ESPN.

The New York Jets finished this season 6-10, but gained arguably the most coverage of any other team.

As with the Lakers, the combination of big market (East Rutherford) and big names (Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan) kept the Jets constantly in the news.

There’s no stopping this trend.

Maybe Americans just like to see teams with high expectations fail.

Maybe it’s an inherent trait to anticipate losses in situations like these, and we love to constantly hear about our correctness.

All in all, I’m sure the Spurs and Thunder prefer where they stand at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

They remain under the radar, quietly winning games and securing prime playoff positions.

And as of now, every Lakers fan would give up even a small amount of media attention for some wins.

Phillip Ericksen is a senior journalism major from San Antonio. He is a reporter for the Lariat.