ESPN Presents: “Who’s Now” (AKA “Who Was Then” – A Retrospective On ESPN’s Worst Feature Ever)

You’ll be hard-pressed to get me to support ESPN in virtually any capacity these days: their programming is aimed largely at infotainment (i.e. shows with pundits trying to be more outrageous than one another – I’m looking at you, Rob Parker), they unashamedly pimp the sports and conferences they directly sponsor (it’s no accident ESPN overrates the SEC so much) and ignore the sports they don’t get any incentive to cover, like the NHL. They’ve largely abandoned the things that made them so successful in search of shtick-heavy anchors and bloviating analysts.

So yeah, ESPN has made a lot of questionable decisions over the years. But for my money, no one thing so quintessentially captures everything that was and still is wrong with ESPN like one SportsCenter feature in particular: the “Who’s Now” series.

In case you [luckily] don’t remember this series, this was how ESPN passed the time during the summer of 2007, where it’s a struggle to create content for an hour-long show with no real sports seasons going on. Except baseball, I guess (so, yeah, no real sports).

The premise? Pit 32 athletes against one another, tournament style, with fan voting determining which athlete was more “now” than the rest of their competition. Did ESPN ever bother to define what made one athlete more “now” than another? Not really, besides a few nebulous factors like “on-field success and off-field buzz.” Think I made that up? Nope, that’s from a Wikipedia article entitled – and I’m not even fucking kidding about this – “Criticism of ESPN.” Spoiler alert: That article has a whole section dedicated to “Who’s Now” – not the best start.

But fine, whatever, let’s pretend like this was a good enough idea for live TV (it wasn’t) and then continue to act like it was worth our scorn (it was) – how did the tournament end up???

For the sake of building the drama, I’ll present the results like ESPN’s archived page does, starting with the quarter-finals. After each round, I’ll post some commentary. Ready guys?

First Round

MICHAEL JORDAN REGION
July 1: (1) Tiger Woods def. (8) Matt Leinart (90% – 10%)
July 2: (4) Dwyane Wade def. (5) Shaun White (73% – 27%)
July 3: (2) LaDainian Tomlinson def. (7) David Beckham (50.8% – 49.2)
July 4: (3) Steve Nash def. (6) Serena Williams (57% – 43%)

MUHAMMAD ALI REGION
July 5: (1) Peyton Manning def. (8) Amanda Beard (80.5% – 19.5%)
July 6: (4) Dale Earnhardt Jr. def. (5) Chuck Liddell (61.7% – 38.3%)
July 7: (2) Alex Rodriguez def. (7) Terrell Owens (67.5% – 32.5%)
July 8: (3) Kobe Bryant def. (6) Ronaldinho (60.8% – 39.2%)

BILLIE JEAN KING REGION
July 9: (1) LeBron James def. (8) Kelly Slater (84.4 % – 15.6%)
July 10: (4) Jeff Gordon def. (5) Barry Bonds (62.2% – 37.8%)
July 11: (2) Derek Jeter def. (7) Sidney Crosby (63.8% – 36.2%)
July 12: (3) Reggie Bush def. (6) Danica Patrick (72.5% – 27.5%)

BABE RUTH REGION
July 13: (1) Tom Brady def. (8) David Ortiz (66.1% – 33.9%)
July 14: (4) Maria Sharapova def. (5) Vince Young (60% – 40%)
July 15: (7) Tony Parker def. (2) Roger Federer (56.1% – 43.9%)
July 16: (3) Shaquille O’Neal def. (6) Michael Phelps (52.2% – 47.8%)

So the regions here are named after famous athletes, presumably who were all the most “now” of anyone in their respective eras. And we’re in for a treat right off the bat: Tiger Woods is a 1-seed. TIGER MOTHERFUCKING WOODS. I know this is 2007, but man…how crazy is it to see his name nowadays? Naturally, he destroys 2007 Matt Leniart, 90%-10% – the most lopsided result of the whole tournament. Presumably, he celebrates by banging a teenage caddie.

Other comical results: Dale Earnhardt Jr. beats Chuck Liddell in a battle of the most famous people in the worst sports ever;¬† Vince Young is even considered remotely relevant for ANY reason and, wouldn’t you know it, he still loses to a tennis player; Kobe Bryant beats soccer star Ronaldinho, which is inexplicably the closest match in the Ali Region despite the words “soccer” and “2007.”

Ready for the next round? Let’s do it!

Second Round

MICHAEL JORDAN REGION
July 17: (1) Tiger Woods def. (4) Dwyane Wade (73.1% – 26.9%)
July 18: (2) LaDainian Tomlinson def. (3) Steve Nash (68.6% – 31.4%)

MUHAMMAD ALI REGION
July 19: (1) Peyton Manning def. (4) Dale Earnhardt Jr. (70.6% – 29.4%)
July 20: (2) Alex Rodriguez def. (3) Kobe Bryant (52.4% – 47.6%)

BILLIE JEAN KING REGION
July 21: (1) LeBron James def. (4) Jeff Gordon (66.5% – 33.5%)
July 22: (2) Derek Jeter def. (3) Reggie Bush (55.5% – 44.5%)

BABE RUTH REGION
July 23: (1) Tom Brady def. (4) Maria Sharapova (67.1% – 32.9%)
July 24: (3) Shaquille O’Neal def. (7) Tony Parker (67.7% – 32.3%)

The second round offers up a few pretty major surprises, and I can’t even believe I’m saying that considering this whole concept is retarded and I’ve dedicated more time to hating this than any healthy person should. Biggest blowout? Tiger Woods over Dwyane Wade. What the actual fuck, voters? Wade led his team to an NBA title a year earlier, and Woods was in the middle of yet another year of routine dominance in a sport that most people don’t care about…and THIS was the biggest blowout??? Jesus H. Jones, guys.

Now maybe this doesn’t seem that egregious to you without context, and that’s fine. But the second-largest blowout in this round? Peyton Manning defeats MOTHERFUCKING DALE EARNHARDT JR. Arguably the best QB in NFL HISTORY wasn’t even able to beat a fucking NASCAR driver by more than Tiger Woods beat a top-five NBA player? Guhhhhhhhh.

Man, I really regret doing this already. Let’s finish this shit – Round Three!

Quarterfinals
July 25: Jordan final: (1) Tiger Woods def. (2) LaDainian Tomlinson (60.8% – 39.2%)
July 26: Ali final: (1) Peyton Manning def. (2) Alex Rodriguez (52.2% – 47.8%)
July 27: King final: (1) LeBron James def. (2) Derek Jeter (58.3% – 41.7%)
July 28: Ruth final: (3) Shaquille O’Neal def. (1) Tom Brady (52.4% – 47.5%)

Once again, adulterous douchebag Tiger Woods has the largest margin of victory of anyone in this round, even though he went up against a generation-defining NFL RB in LaDainian Tomlinson. And look, given the circumstances I don’t really mind any results in the quarterfinals…although I WOULD like to point out that Derek Jeter, despite being SO GODDAMN OVERRATED for his entire career due to a lucky first few years and being a handsome dude living in New York, beat out both Sidney Crosby (who was already his sport’s best player in 2007) and recent USC megastar Reggie Bush to get to this round. Come on now.

So I’ll skip the semis and just tell you that the end result here is that Tiger Woods – I seriously cannot stress enough how hilarious it is to think about this – beats out preternatural basketball wizard LeBron James in a 65% – 35% vote. Also, since this is 2007 and sportswriters have been lazy for a long time now, try to guess whether or not the first line mocks LeBron not winning this title:

“LeBron James reached another championship — and once again fell short.”

LOLOL NICE ONE GUISE YOU TOTALLY GOT HIM ZOMG LOLOL!

So what was the point of all this? Basically, you should take away these conclusions:

  1. ESPN blows at everything and isn’t worth your time or attention at all.
  2. “Who’s Now” was the dumbest concept of all time.
  3. Five years is a pretty long time, and a few of the athletes here – including the fucking champion – can and did become irrelevant in basically a moment’s notice.
  4. I kind of hate myself a little for re-exposing myself to this thing.
  5. I need a drink.

-jsg

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ESPN Presents: “Who’s Now” (AKA “Who Was Then” – A Retrospective On ESPN’s Worst Feature Ever)

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