Jeff Pearlman

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ESPN’s dishonest moment

So a few hours ago I blogged about the Mark Ingram interview that appeared on ESPN’s draft coverage.

Well, I’ve actually changed my mind.

Not about Ingram—he was great, and should be praised for the warmth and emotion that shone through at a very big moment in his life. But—thinking about this in more detail, then talking about it with my pal, Michael Lewis—I can’t help by cringe at ESPN’s handling. Suzy Kolber is a pro’s pro, and I generally enjoy her work. But this was just wrong, and manipulative. A guy is drafted into the NFL. It’s a big moment. A huge moment. You line up a post-moment interview—terrific.

Then  you greet him with a letter from his incarcerated father. You read it for the millions watching—a personal moment turned public. He cries. And cries. And cries some more. In the ESPN production booth, everyone cheers. What raw emotion! What spur-of-the-moment grittiness! Great job, Kolber! Great job!

But it’s not a great job. It’s emotional manipulation. You don’t spring this sort of letter upon a 21-year-old kid on national TV. It might make for great viewing, but it’s dishonest, dishonorable and wrong. This is the life he’s been handed—a father behind bars; trying to overcome that and somehow get past it.

He should be celebrated.

Not exploited.

  • dgw

    Bingo – well said.

  • Kevin Van Valkenburg

    Felt exactly the same way the moment this happened. All that was missing was the segue from Berman saying “Let’s go now to Suzy Kolber, as she tries to make Mark Ingram cry.”

    Are you not entertained???

    Puke.

  • http://thingsthatarefuckingstupid.wordpress.com/ Keane

    I’m kind of ambivalent about this, but can we stop calling 21 year-olds “kids?” He’s a man. He might not be 35, but he’s a man.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ielpi Michael

    Thank you Jeff. I felt the same way. Amazing, how so many felt the other way. Father and son moments should be kept between a father and a son no matter where the two may happen to be. While nothing the Worldwide Leader does shocks me, this made me cringe. A total embarrassment for a young man who just had a dream come true. I have no idea what it has been like for Mark Ingram the last few years, but if I want to know I want to hear it from him and not some TV charade to draw a cheap feeling.

  • RA

    I was wondering why Kolber and ESPN were being congratulated for this crap. I had similar feelings about it and only Mark Ingram came out looking sincere.

  • Sir Obvious

    Is there anything unique about this? Half of television right now is intentional exploitation of someone’s emotions for public consumption.

  • Ryan

    Couldn’t agree more with you, Jeff. I felt dirty just watching it and promptly switched to NFL Network right after, hopefully to never return again for draft coverage. I was stunned that Kolber would do something with so little class. Don’t know why but I always held her in high regard. I was particularly nauseated by the ESPN staffers on Twitter and elsewhere congratulating Kolber for her great interview (Amy Nelson and Pat Forde were two in particular that I remember). Shame on all of them.

  • http://www.arrfiles.blogspot.com Andrew

    I sort of disagree.
    Not with the conclusion but with the argument. Yes, it was a personal moment. But Kolber was the one with the letter. Ingram Sr. didn’t make contact with his son directly, he did it through a reporter at the draft. What did he expect? Kolber to pull Mark aside and show it to him later that night? He could’ve gotten the message to his son through a family member or agent, but he chose a reporter.

  • RyGuy

    It was a joke and the people I was with last night said the same thing the moment we heard Kolber out of the blue say “I have an email from Mark’s dad that I am going to wait to share with him later.” This whole thing had nothing to do with doing a nice thing for the kid, it was all about waiting for the kill of the shock value. We’re not talking about a pen pal here….it’s a letter from his incarcerated father on the biggest day of his life. Put yourself in Ingram’s shoes…Suzy walks up to you and you are expecting the usual “How does it feel” softball questions (and she set him up with one) and instead you get this. Biggest deal in the world? No. But typical ESPN crap and ESPN has long lost any benefit of the doubt they could get.

  • http://SI.com Seth Davis

    Strong stuff, Jeff, and I don’t disagree — except for one thing. In what way was this dishonest? Kolber was not hiding what she was doing in the least. She got the email, told Mark (and the viewers) whom the email was from, she read it and got a very predictable reaction. You may think it was over the top, cheesy, inappropriate, what have you, but you haven’t made the case it was dishonest. And considering you have the word “dishonest” in your headline, you really need to make the case! (Of course, I am never cheesy, inappropriate, over the top or dishonest when I’m on television. It’s only when I’m off the air.)

  • Adrian

    Absolutely disgusting. ESPN has lost a lot of respect for that low-ball stunt they pulled.

  • Ray

    Actually the whole event is more insidious than what is being presented particularly when you think about how she got the email.
    People in prison just don’t email ESPN reporters.
    This was malicious an premeditated act
    What probably occurred is some prior contact requesting an email and then saving that response until the time when it would server herself and her employer the most, with minimal regard for Mark.
    If this is true, that is just heinous behavior…but then again what do you expect from ESPN… the channel that has done more to hurt sports and sportsmanship than anything else in the past 20 years

  • Queshette

    wow….interesting, its like typical black male that doesn’t have a good relationship with his father, let me read you the email he sent me! not you!

    espn can be a joke sometimes!

    love football can’t wait for the 2001-12 season!!!!!!

  • Tommy

    The way it is dishonest is, in real life, if you had sensitive information to convey to someone, you would get it to them in a way they could read it discreetly and have their private reaction.

    The dishonesty is in the idea that such a clearly personal moment had to be done before the cameras.

    It’s the difference between people who find out their paternity results and deal with it privately, or people who go on Jerry Springer with it. One is more honest, one is more entertaining for other people.

  • ZW

    I felt the same way while I was watching the interview. Show him the letter but do it off camera. If his father specified that he wanted it read on the air, then I would change my opinion, but as it stands now I feel like ESPN and Suzy owe Mark Ingram an apology.

  • yourmomsballs

    I partially agree with you on this one. It should be noted, however, that his dad WANTED Suzy to read him the email the moment he was drafted. She said so early in the 1st round several minutes before the guy was drafted.

  • Doug

    It appears that ESPN is getting in the reality TV game, like CNN.

  • leon from new orleans

    I agree 100%. She should be suspended for that non-sense. I wish more people would call her and espn out on it.

  • Locke

    The thing that really turned me off about it…the first time in this draft (and if I’m not mistaken, only time) we heard anything at all from a draftee’s parent, was from a guy in prison. Most of these guys had parents heavily involved in their lives, who contributed mightily to their beating tremendous odds to become one of the rare few. Well by contributed, I mean more than genes and a name. And it’s not like Ingram was the only son of a NFL’er either. But he’s in jail, so by all means, let’s make sure everyone hears what he has to say.

  • dave

    you focking loser. the only way a guy like you will learn is when something happens with you and your family and your kids have to deal with the BS fallout. good luck. with your karma its only a mater of time.

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