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ESPN sacrifices integrity


When SportsCenter debuted a little more than 25 years ago, it was a sports geek's dream. Viewers could expect journalism on the level of the network news. And for a long time, they got it. Note the past tense.

As if the constant corporate plugs weren't enough, ESPN has lost more credibility by allowing another of its "journalists" to do a commercial.

If you haven't seen it, consider yourself lucky. It features SportsCenter anchor Kenny Mayne mimicking famed soccer announcer Andres Cantor in very annoying fashion.

This isn't the first ESPN "journalist" to take money for pitching a product. Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann and Stuart Scott have done it.

Just like newspaper and television journalists should not do commercials, ESPN "journalists" should not either. And sports journalists are no different than those who cover local politics, religion, Wall Street or the war in Iraq.

Objectivity is objectivity, no matter the subject, and journalists must not compromise it. As soon as that happens, viewers can question why stories are/aren't broadcast, where they are placed in the broadcast, how much time they are given and if a corporation had any influence on those decisions.

Corporations already have invaded the sports world, from stadium names to bowl games to advertisements on the field of play. Why not the dissemination of sports news?

But maybe we expect too much of ESPN. Maybe it wasn't created for fairness, objectivity and good journalism. Maybe its name tells us all we need to know about the network's priorities: Entertainment and Sports Programing Network.

Emphasis on the entertainment.


Not overlooked anymore

Not bad for a guy who wasn't even supposed to be on the team, eh?

Canada added the Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier to its' World Cup of Hockey team only after Steve Yzerman was declared out with an injury.

And in the spirit of backup quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jeff Hostetler, Lecavalier led his nation to a championship. And like Brady, Lecavalier was named the most valuable player.

The center had two goals and five assists in six games. His biggest goal came when he put a rebound past the Czech Republic's Tomas Vokoun 3:45 into overtime of a 4-3 semifinal victory. Let's see. A big star coming through in a big game? Sounds like Michael Jordan.

But we must give credit to former Lightning owner Art Williams for that comparison, made when the Lightning drafted Lecavalier No. 1 overall in 1998.

Lecavalier's seven points were second in the tournament, behind only Lightning teammate Fredrik Modin. The left wing had four goals and four assists in only four games for Sweden.

Those two weren't the only Lightning players who contributed to their teams. Martin St. Louis had two goals and two assists and Brad Richards one goal and three assists for Canada. Vinny Prospal had one goal and three assists in four games for the Czechs. Dmitri Afanasenkov had a goal and an assist in two games for Russia. And Martin Cibak had one goal in four games for Slovakia.

The Lightning's future looks bright. Of course, its future depends on the future of the currently shutdown NHL.

_ AARON GREENFIELD, Times staff writer