So I'm watching ESPN's SportsCenter Monday night over on ESPN2 following the Jets-Ravens game. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was a guest at a desk set up on the field with ESPN's Stuart Scott, Matt Millen and Steve Young. It was the usual back-and-forth with the ESPN guys asking Lewis questions about the game and the Ravens.
Anyway, the little chat is about the wrap up and they all thank Lewis for coming on and then I see something that really isn't surprising from ESPN, but still was disgusting to watch. First Young, seated next to Lewis, reaches over and shakes his hand. Then Millen follows with a handshake. Then, incredibly, Scott, who is seated at the opposite end from Lewis, has to literally get out of his chair so he can give Lewis a fist-bump. Why didn't ESPN just cater the whole thing and the four could've had dinner together? Is this a news show or Merv Griffin? It's not just that they shook Lewis' hand, it's how they did it, all chummy-chummy like they're all in this together.
Scott should know better. Of everyone on the panel, he is supposed to the real journalist. Millen and Young need to realize that they don't play anymore and their careers now call for them to be objective observers.
It's one thing to thank the guy from giving up a few minutes of his time, but it's another to start acting like it's a boys night out. How can ESPN think this is okay behavior? These analysts and hosts are paid to offer insight, news and analysis. Don't they realize what kind of message it sends to viewers to act like they're all buddies with the subjects they cover? It's no wonder that ESPN gets so heavily criticized for incidents like the LeBron James' signing show. Viewers already think ESPN is too close with the athletes. When they see on-air personalities shooting commercials with sports stars and behave like Scott, Millen and Young did Monday night with Lewis, it only adds to the perception that the journalistic line between ESPN and athletes not only has been blurred, it has disappeared.