ESPN will “self-scout” its “Debbie Downer” draft facts

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It’s been part of the ESPN draft coverage in the past, but it was more conspicuous this year due both to the absence of an NFL Network alternative and to the fact that many more people were watching than usual.

For several of the draft prospects, the biographical information shared by ESPN included something regarding a personal hardship relating to a relative, in an apparent effort to make the players seem relatable. Whether it’s a parent who had a drug problem or a sibling who had cancer or whatever fact that can inject a human-interest angle, ESPN’s draft coverage routinely takes a gratuitous right turn, often without differentiating the unfortunate personal angle from pertinent data.

Three-time captain . . . ran the 40 in 4.58 seconds . . . dog was once run over by a garbage truck.

This year, ESPN took flak from media, fans, and players for it. To its credit, ESPN isn’t ignoring the noise.

“I heard [the criticism],” ESPN executive Seth Markman told Peter King. “It’s not unfair. It’s something we should self-scout for the future. It’s something we can examine. We didn’t want to be Debbie Downer, but we wanted to show how some of the players overcame major issues in their lives. Maybe how Javon Kinlaw drew inspiration from growing up homeless, or a player overcoming a father’s suicide to achieve his dream.”

Ultimately, the question is relevance. If there’s a real connection to the draft prospect, fine. But it should be done sparingly and only when the player’s story can’t be properly told without the information. If, for example, the player picked Purdue over Alabama because his late father played at Purdue, that’s got more relevance than the oh-by-the-way P.S. that dredges up a hardship that the player overcame but that has no independent significant to his path to the NFL.

The current approach, despite ESPN’s intentions, creates the impression that it’s picking unnecessarily at an old wound on a day that should focus on a future full of promise instead.

31 responses to “ESPN will “self-scout” its “Debbie Downer” draft facts

  1. My dad never watches the draft but decided to this year because he misses sports. He got up and left to go read his book the instant they trotted out the sob stories and I don’t blame him. It seemed so forced when they squeeze the death of a family member in between the bench and the 3 cone time

  2. wingo was all over the place. Idk if it was his scripting or he’s suffering horribly from ADHD.
    And espn countlessly thanked themselves the final draft day & honored their own guy (mcvay) in the very end due to catching the cough.
    Overall, it was successful…only because it was the only sports related TV not bring re-run’d.

  3. I like an honest evaluation as opposed to Gruden and Collinsworth calling every player one of the best in the league. ESPN,however, has to bring up every negative thing in each draft choices life. Not to be insensitive, but every person has tragedy in their life. It is part of life, unfortunately. This is the biggest moment of these kids life and ESPN wants to cast a dark cloud over each pick. ESPN sucks!!

  4. Is ESPN still on the air? And forget the life history, why was both the NFL Network & ESPN about 10 picks behind all day Friday & Saturday? I couldn’t even tell who was drafted & had to go online.

  5. Worst one for me was “here’s this first round draft pick, who tragically lost his 7yo sister…”… I mean jeez, ESPN, maybe there’s relevance for that guy but you might as well start introducing ourselves like, “Hi, my name is John Doe. My wife was killed in a car accident involving a drunk driver 6 months ago. Nice to meet you.”

  6. At least they admit it and will look to modify that. I noticed the sob story overuse also and was put off by it. They probably can’t do anything about Roger Goodell’s repeatedly stupid and forced comments to fans on the virtual screen. He looked anything but natural and sincere.

  7. Thank god I thought I was the only one. And they would start these heartbreaking stories IMMEDIATELY after the pic.

  8. I have always tended to watch the draft on the NFL network. This year I changed TV providers and no longer have NFL Network. With the combined NFLN/ESPN staff I had hope that this would be an ok draft broadcast. It wasn’t. Lats year NFLN reported on how Josh Jacobs grew up mostly homeless and became a 1st round pick. It made for an endearing story and showed how he beat the odds.
    This year it seemed like EVERY player was Josh Jacobs. Homeless, father killed in a car accident, living with another family because both parents were MIA, etc. It was played out by the end of the first round and only got worse.
    Not to mention that I now remember how much I dislike Mel Kiper. If you read any of Daniel Jeremiah’s evaluations leading up to the draft, there were some that were the polar opposite of Kiper’s but we didn’t seem to get those instead hearing Kiper rave about a guy that most others valued way lower in the draft without getting to hear a rebuttal to Kiper’s view. (Remember his Jamarcus Russell eval?)
    If NFLN isn’t added to my TV provider by next year’s draft, I’ll probably find a seat at my local sports bar, or skip the draft all together.

  9. I only watched the ABC broadcast and there were some sob stories, but I don’t remember thinking it was overkill. So the ESPN one was worse?

  10. Yes! It was cringeworthy – I’m all for a good story, but there was less talking about the impact of picks on teams and systems than on human interest stories. I mean Jordan Love is picked – I don’t care that he was 5 foot 7 in high school and only got Offer- the next 10 minutes should have been “What does this mean for Aaron R. and the Packers- how will he react? Did they mess the pick up?”

  11. I only watched the ABC broadcast and there were some sob stories, but I don’t remember thinking it was overkill.

  12. If I watch the draft at all it is because I want to see pertinent information regarding the player’s football accomplishments, outstanding plays & highlights, basic info (ht/wt/speed/etc) and how they could fit in with the team that drafted them. I do not care one bit about the “personal stories” because it is just not interesting to me, only serves the network’s exploitation for profit mentality and it is quite simply none of my business. They could get rid of the PSAs and tribute nonsense also with the exception of a team great announcing the pick but even those guys have turned it into their own personal chance to show off themselves. I say, keep it simple and keep it relative to football but I am probably in the minority since tons of people like “reality TV” for some reason.

  13. They showed more game footage and analysis in the 7th round than they did in the first round. That was disappointing.

  14. This is funny. I didn’t watch, but I followed online and was in a group chat at the same time, and everyone was commenting about how every pick had been through some tragedy when they got picked.

  15. I literally told my wife during the draft that one day a kid is going to tell a story about how he was telling his dying dad that he’d one day be telling the world a story about his dad dying and him promising he’d get drafted high enough to tell the story. Ridiculous.

  16. Sounds like they were trying to do the Olympics “humanizing every athlete” stuff, which honestly feels more poignant there, because it’s people who have devoted their lives to something for which there’s a high chance of failure and little opportunity for return.

    NFL draftees, on the other hand, all have the same punch line. “This guy had something traumatic happen, and now he’s a multi-millionaire, set for life! How does that feel to you, viewer? Next up…”

  17. The traditional draft telecast is pretty hit and miss anyway, with too much time to fill in between picks which leads to way too much chatter and filler. I found this year even worse because there wasn’t the usual in-venue stuff to help fill some of that time and while there were only a few technical glitches, the format meant there was very little interaction or chemistry shown. The ridiculous sob stories just made it even worse. I give ESPN/ABC a grade of F. Not sure why NFL Network just didn’t do its own thing virtually to provide an actual alternative.

  18. The disclosure that the twins were adopted at 9 months was an interesting revelation. Hopefully it might inspire people to consider it.

  19. All these years we take Chris Berman for granted. That was a big mistake. Berman is a HOFer and they should put him in Canton. The other guy looks like a fine young man (I think his name is Wingo), but the draft is a special occasion. That guy is just out of his element. Talking about Goodell’s chair and other nonsense like that is just nuts. And saying a player has athletes in his family because his brother is on the 8th grade basketball team, and his 13 year old sister plays volleyball? Who’s producing this stuff? Do you mean to tell me that ESPN doesn’t have any employees that know anything about football??? Where in the heck is Herbstreit? He knows more about college players than anyone.

  20. I’m surprised no one was complaining about ESPN tipping the picks. Both networks had been better about it in years past but this year was terrible. Almost every time “the pick was in”, they went to a player on the cell phone before Goodell made the pick.

    It makes for awful TV…..shows us the call after the pick.

  21. egomaniac247 says:
    April 27, 2020 at 12:29 pm
    …It makes for awful TV…..shows us the call after the pick.
    I agree with your first statement about tipping but not this part. Why show the phone call at all? Do you really need to see Aunt Bunny clapping and dancing with her new hairdo and Sunday best? I don’t. It is a given that every draft pick would be happy about being drafted to play in the NFL as that is a lifelong dream for most of them. Congrats, but next.

  22. Watch the”A Football Life” Mean Joe Greene episode to see how the draft was run back in the day. Pete Rozelle standing at the podium in front of about 30 media members and team execs reading a card “The Steelers select Joe Greene, G-R-E-E-N.E.” No applause, no theatrics, nothing. Somehow I think it was much better back then.

  23. Yeah, most of these were just complete crap. Especially moms drug addiction. Why and how can that be a thing?

  24. How pitiful has ESPN become that the one event they broadcast with no competition from other networks they still seem to ruin it.

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