You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

ESPN: Hoist by its own petard

Look, there's no defending the idiocies that Rob Parker spewed about Robert Griffin III the other day.

"Cornball brother"? "Not one of us"? "Kind of black"? Wha-?

To paraphrase an old Dan Jenkins line: If Parker had a brain, he'd be outside playing with it. Or at least he would have been at that particular moment.

And let's not tap-dance around this: If Rush Limbaugh or one of his ilk says this, given their documented history of racially offensive comments, he's gone in a second. Parker doesn't have that kind of history, and he comes at this from the perspective of an African-American, so he maybe gets a little more leeway from the powers-that-be at ESPN.

Then again, ESPN did say his comments were "inappropriate," and that it was evaluating its next move, which suggest some sort of punishment. And that, friends, is where this gets interesting.

Here's the deal: Parker made his comments on "First Take," whose numbers have skyrocketed since it went to an all-debate-all-the-time format. Which means the regulars, Parker among them, are being paid to be edgy, because edgy has been good to ESPN. Yet now the network feels compelled to slap down Parker for doing the very thing ESPN is putting him on the air to do?

You reap what you sow in this world, and ESPN reaped this. It created an environment where controversy -- even the fake kind engendered by the phony Skip Bayless/Stepehen A. Smith dynamic -- was found to be a cash cow, and thus was deemed the industry standard. Punishing Parker for generating it seems unfair in that context.

And it's bad for business, too. Because once you commit yourself to shock-talk, dialing it back is death.

What's the tagline now for "First Take"? "Embrace Debate"?

Too late to push it away now.

Ben Smith's blog.