Last Tuesday I was sitting in the dining hall on campus, grabbing something quick to eat before work when I glanced up at one of the TVs and noticed ESPN was on, more specifically, NFL Live.
As I hope you can remember, Tuesday was just one day after the Boston Marathon bombing which claimed three lives and injured almost 200 more. Nearly every news station had been airing almost round-the-clock coverage of what was going on, airing pictures, videos and allowing news anchors to make insensitive metaphors claiming the desolate streets of Watertown looked “as though a bomb went off”.
While many news stations worked to keep viewers up to date about the situation, something struck me as odd about ESPN’s coverage. On NFL Live, the panel was discussing the topic of “Dealing with tragedy as an NFL coach.” They were relating the bombing on Monday to NFL coaches. Though I am no statistician, I can say with near certainty that roughly zero people sat at home shortly after the explosions went off thinking to themselves, “What is Chip Kelly doing to handle this ”or“ What would I do if I were coaching the Arizona Cardinals and a bomb went off in Boston?”
Unsurprisingly, any and all NFL coaches most likely handled it much like the rest of humanity; they felt upset, they were curious, maybe angry. Perhaps they called their kids. These are the types of emotions that both humans and NFL coaches are capable of feeling in times of great distress.
I understand that because some disturbed individuals decided to fill a pressure cooker with nails and BBs at a marathon, the tragedy is to a degree sports related. But that doesn’t mean that NFL Live has to try their best to incorporate it into their program that is usually used to discuss such issues as “Manning or Brady” or “Look how far Jamarcus Russell can throw a football from his knees.”
ESPN’s initial coverage of the bombing was both professionally done and informative; I learned about the explosion when I received a text from ESPN while sitting in class that afternoon. But ESPN should know that if they wanted to touch further on the tragedy, they didn’t have to incorporate coaching the NFL into it to find some common ground with their fans. They could have taken a step back and realized a much more relevant commonality: every person watching, every person injured and every person affected by the act of terrorism was a human being.
When I tuned into ESPN that afternoon I wasn’t looking to find out what Tim Hasselbeck thinks that an NFL coach could theoretically have been thinking when people’s limbs were blown off at the Boston Marathon. Cover it, empathize and be sensitive to what is going on in the world around you, but don’t make meaningless connections for the sake of your television show. As one Drexel engineering student so aptly put it, “I don’t think it’s silly of them to do. I think it’s ****ing ridiculous.”