ESPN Doesn’t Just Cover the Game — They Want To Be Part of It

For anyone watching the end of the Jacksonville-Tennessee game last night, the timeouts called by Jags head coach Jack Del Rio as the clock ran down on a game that his team trailed by three scores in looked to be a case of prolonging the misery of his over-matched club.    There’s something to be said for playing to the last whistle and never giving up, but anyone watching already knew that nothing was bringing Jacksonville back.  The timeouts were definitely strange — and today we know why.

According to Titans coach Jeff Fisher, the decision by Del Rio to call the timeouts was influenced by a request from ESPN for the coach to do so.  Fisher also claimed that the network requested that he do the same (presumably to allow more time for commercials to run), a request that Fisher denied;  as he well knew, calling multiple timeouts in a game where his team was up by three TD’s would have been ridiculous — though, it wouldn’t have been much more so than what apparently actually did happen.

If Fisher’s claims are true — and frankly, there isn’t much reason to think they aren’t — then ESPN’s blatant interference in the way the events of a game unfolded (even one in which the outcome was already a foregone conclusion) is a major black eye for the network, Del Rio (for pandering to them), and the NFL (if they don’t take some action against ESPN or to prevent this from happening ever again).  It’s not surprising considering how ESPN has interjected themselves into stories over recent years (i.e. “The [Ridiculous] Decision”).  And it makes Matt Millen and company’s rambling hyperbole at the end of the game regarding the NFL’s new stance on flagrant hits hypocritical and laughable.  In the future, if ESPN wants to address issues that might affect the sanctity of the game of football, maybe they should turn their own high-powered microscope onto themselves first.

UPDATE:  Reports have come out that ESPN has denied that they requested Del Rio or Fisher to take timeouts at the end of the game.  What a shock (sarcasm).  It’s not like any of the parties would actually admit to it if it’s true.

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