In the United Sports of America, we all say `Boo-yah!'

It's ESPNsidious: The cable channel is infiltrating every aspect of our lives

Observations

December 05, 2004|By Tom Dunkel | Tom Dunkel,SUN STAFF

Another news bomb exploded this past week. Nobody noticed. Everyone is preoccupied with more overt terrorism, with the threat posed by, pardon the ESPNspeak, Osama "Yo' Mama" Bin Laden.

On Wednesday, Sprint Corporation and ESPN announced they are teaming up to develop a "sport mobile phone service" to be called - what else? - ESPN Mobile. The ESPN-ization of America rolls on. World domination to follow. After SportsCenter.

Boo-yah!

Let's see, we've already got a nationwide chain of ESPN Zone restaurants ... the annual ESPY Awards for athletic achievement ... ESPN 1, ESPN 2, ESPN Classic and Spanish-language ESPN Deportes cable channels ... ESPN Radio ... the ESPN-concocted Winter and Summer X Games ... ESPN the Magazine...

Did I mention ESPN the Salad Dressing? Or is that still a marketing opportunity waiting to happen?

I hate ESPN. I fear ESPN. ESPN isn't "staying within itself," as athletes are often heard to say on ESPN the Empire. This is a sports-entertainment conglomerate with disturbing expansionist tendencies. How powerful a force is ESPN? Hey, its execs made celebrities out of a bunch of chubby guys who wear sunglasses indoors just by herding them together for a "World Series of Poker." ESPN can get people addicted to watching bass fishing tournaments.

Now, Hooters is a company I respect. It knows its niche: cleavage restaurants. The CEO of Hooters doesn't hold a press conference to announce he's going to build a string of provocatively shaped nuclear power plants.

ESPN, however, knows no bounds. And the worst is yet to come. How do I know? Well, late at night - in those wee, small hours after the June 1948 Tony Zale-Rocky Graziano middleweight title fight airs on ESPN Classic - if I fiddle with the cable on my television, I can sometimes pick up a faint, fuzzy picture from an unlisted channel.

It is, I've discovered, a test signal being beamed from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. (where the ESPN mother ship landed in 1974, filled with sports-mad, mind-controlling aliens from distant planet "Booyah"). This phantom channel carries programs in development for soon-to-be-launched ESPN 4, shorthand for ESPN Fourth Dimension, the cable station where you will be able to watch sporting events that haven't happened yet.

Go ahead, laugh. But didn't you laugh when you first heard ESPN was going to televise log-rolling competitions?

I have seen some strange things on ESPN 4. The other night I watched the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Ravens 35-7 in the 2021 Super Bowl. (Long story. In a few years ESPN will buy the baseball Yankees and turn them into an NFL expansion team.) I also know that late next year ESPN will unveil a line of Prime Time Men's Cologne. Only it's not cologne. It's actual sweat taken from the brows of superstar athletes during ESPN-televised games. (A 6-ounce bottle of Eau de Ray Lewis will sell for $275.)

Oh, by the way, the war in Iraq ends in 2007. Anchor General Dan Patrick will lead a private army of 10,000 ESPN volunteers in a kind of Green Bay Packer sweep across the country.

"Vince Lombardi would be proud. There's no quit in this army," I heard Gen. Patrick say in a battle-sideline interview. "More than half my men earned varsity letters in high school, about 10 percent played Division I college football. We're gonna take it one war at a time, but - how should I put this? - don't be surprised if North Korea shows up on our schedule pretty soon."

It's all coming. ESPN the State (a sports gambling paradise sandwiched between Vermont and New Hampshire) ... ESPNvelopes to carry our mail. And, in 2008, ESPN uber-anchor Chris Berman will be the ESPN Party candidate for president. He will crisscross the country campaigning in his "Boomermobile," accompanied by the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and running mate Tiger Woods.

It wouldn't be fair to divulge who wins the 2008 presidential election. All I'm gonna say is Berman could ... go ... all ... the ... way.

Boo-yah!

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