The World Wide Fraud

Spent last week in Cleveland and Columbus pimping The Whore of Akron. Had a ball. A couple of bookstore events, a few TV spots, a ton of radio, local and national. It was great.

The book’s official publication date was 11/15. The Associated Press, the Christian Science MonitorParadeSports Illustrated, the Wall Street Journal, and various other national media outlets all weighed in on it. Not all the coverage was favorable, to be sure, but I have no problem at all with that.

I do have a major problem with one media outlet, though: ESPN. The World Wide Leader. The most powerful institution, bar none, in the wide world of sports. Bigger than any league, any apparel or sport drink or shoe manufacturer, any other network, any other entity you can name. They’re not only business partners with the NFL, NBA, and MLB; ESPN calls all the shots, and everyone knows it.

To ESPN, there is no such book. The Whore of Akron simply does not exist. Search the Heat Index, where 18 writers are standing by to file columns in case King James strains himself during a bowel movement. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Their treatment of the book is no surprise, really. I’m hard on ESPN. The Decision was a travesty, the Heat Index is an ongoing parody of sports journalism, and I genuinely believe that anyone who ascribes any degree of honesty or integrity to ESPN as an unbiased source of sports coverage is a damned fool. All this, and more, is in the book. So I would’ve been naive to think that a book like mine would get much play there. Hell, I’m the one who used #ESPNMiamiHeat as a Twitter hashtag all season. I get it, honest. I’ve worked at national magazines for 20+ years. It’s just business, and that’s all it is. Nothing personal.

Then I found out that Bill Simmons spiked a review of the book written for Grantland, the Sizzler of sports websites. Ran it up the flagpole first — and Simmons doesn’t answer to a lot of people; he’s Bill fucking Simmons, after all — and then killed it. And that was the last straw. That I did take personally.

You guys want to rip the book? Fine with me. You want to rip me? Even better. I’ll go anywhere anytime with anyone ESPN chooses to debate my opinion of ESPN. It’s just one asshole’s opinion, after all. But the fact that ESPN is ignoring the book is not an opinion; it’s a fact, and it strongly supports my opinion of ESPN’s corporate cowardice and utter lack of integrity.

By the way, I have plenty of colleagues at ESPN whose work I respect, and more than a couple I consider friends. This isn’t a writer/reporter problem. It’s a management/editorial problem, and my colleagues and friends there know all about it. It goes WAY beyond one asshole’s opinion or his book. And, sooner or later, it will sink the Mothership.