There are times when I visit ESPN.com—once a place for consistent, quality sports journalism—and think about how it’s become a bit of a joke. It seems that at some point over the last few years, the website’s brass got word from higher-ups at Disney to eschew their editorial arrows away from targets like investigative, critical, or those so-called “hard-hitting” scoops, and aim instead for things like, oh, I dunno, headlines about the English Premier League or reactions of celebrities sitting courtside. Clicks and new markets and such, I guess. Because Red Sox-Yankees got stale and CTE is shhhhhhh. Drink Gatorade.
Or maybe ESPN isn’t to blame, for they simply provide the content and we, the huddled masses, click on it—a lot. ESPN is conducting good business: giving the people what they want; giving the people what they don’t know they yet want but hope they will begin to think it’s what they want because they see it all the time; faux controversies; and staying loyal to advertisers, like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.
Journalism in 2016. Excuse me while I get back to flipping the pages of my Mirukami. Or Tablet mag.
But I digress. Kinda. Because this is, in fact, about something my eyes came across over the weekend on ESPN.com concerning a man we’re concerned with here at Tablet, as with the rest of the American world: Drake. That’s right, just in time for the release of his latest album—good job Drake publicists!—Drizzy was a) Courtside at Game 7 of the Pacers-Raptops tilt (good job Drake publicists!) after serenading fans outside the arena who all snapgrammed the performance (good job Drake publicists!), and 2) Courtside on good ‘ol ESPN.com, the iTunes of sports websites.
I didn’t click on it at first, on the link that promised to show me 19 seconds of “Drake fired up Raptors’ after 3-pointer.” I was alone at the time but I swear to you I cringed when I first saw it. How dare I be bothered on a cloudy Sunday to look at this young, talented, wealthy, bar mitzvahed celebrity sit courtside and root on the team he loves, and on a sports site no less? I felt angered by the fact that ESPN had the gall to put that crap in front of my eyes, as though Drake’s reaction—brought to you by Discover—to a Patrick Patterson three-point field goal midway through the 3rd quarter mattered one bit.
So I pushed down my MacBook, with its chipping silver edges, and closed the cover. I harumphed over my stove and put on the kettle. “Drake,” I said. “I’ll tell you what I think of that, Drake, stupid Drake and his stupid self, all Toronto and OVO and courtside seats and melancholy clubbangers and all.”
Within seconds I put down my piping berry tea to check ESPN.com again. And I clicked. I clicked that Drake link with the celerity and expertness of the champion whose title is in the field of picking up peanuts with chopsticks.
And there he was. “Let’s goooo,” a jean-jacketed Drake exclaimed as he raised his hand over his eye to signal the amount of points his—his team—had team just scored. The cameras panned away. When they did I bet he swore—nothing too harsh—and swigged something warm and expensive and brown, then plopped his behind down on a cushioned seat and proceeded to text his boys down the 6, who can’t believe they get to live in his dream, our dream, my dream.
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.