As ESPN-on-ESPN crime goes, this one falls somewhere between conflicting factual reports regarding a player injury and Tony Kornheiser’s notorious public slam of Hannah Storm’s on-air attire.
After Monday night’s Chiefs-Steelers game, ESPN’s in-studio host threw to the guys at Heinz Field before the guys at Heinz Field knew the throw was coming. And the audience got to hear Rick Reilly asking host Stuart Scott to point out that Reilly had information about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder injury first on Twitter.
The moment provided a glimpse into the toxic atmosphere of competition at the four-letter network, where they’re throwing elbows not only at the external competition but also toward their colleagues.
Via The Big Lead, ESPN’s Ed Werder threw an elbow back at Reilly on Tuesday, posting (and then deleting) this message on (where else?) Twitter: “Hey @reillyrick,” Werder wrote, “please inform Twitter followers you’ve turned the Big Ben story over to others. Either that, or take my reporting shift.”
Though Werder could be in line for punishment for taking a public shot at a coworker, he has a right to be upset. Reilly isn’t an NFL reporter. Though we’re not quite sure what Reilly’s role is, he’s definitely not an NFL reporter. And with an army of NFL reporters marching on the same turf and chasing the same scoops, the last thing any of them want is to have to worry about a non-NFL reporter encroaching on their crowded turf.
Werder possibly wasn’t the only ESPN personality upset with Reilly’s antics. Many have suggested that Steve Young’s demeanor indicates he was pissed at Reilly for making a big deal out of getting credit for an injury that was reported, well, everywhere. There’s a chance, however, that Young turned toward Reilly while listening to a producer telling Young and Reilly something like “you know, they could hear you at home.” Young’s tap to the forearm of Reilly could have been Young’s way of acknowledging to Reilly that the tail end of their discussion had gone out over the ESPN airwaves.
And that’s the ultimate lesson for anyone who ever appears on live TV. We’ll call it the Miranda rules for microphones; once that thing is on, assume that anything you say can and will be used against you. Especially when you know that you’re getting close to the moment where you’ll be doing it live like Reilly’s cousin Bill O.