I Stopped Watching ESPN & MSNBC When I Stopped Hating Myself So Much

So I'm not exactly sure how, when, or why it happened but it's definitely not one of those things that I can "blame" on COVID or lockdown. Hell, if anything it resulted in a rare sliver of a silver lining. Being a writer and editor, my days are pretty much spent working from home, strapped to my laptop, plugged into as much social media as possible, and keeping about eight chat "plates" spinning at the same time. So when "The 2020" hit, there really wasn't a whole lot of adjusting that I needed to do. But with my friends & family, I went from being an "oh, you're so lucky to be able to work from home" guy to a "holy crap, how do you deal with working from home" guy. With that came a ton of questions like how to keep your home and workspace separate when they're happening in the same room, how to keep the sound of your own typing from driving you off the deep end, and things like that. One of the biggest things I can't recommend enough (especially for all the writers out there) is how important it is to have something going on in the background that inspires you and keeps your vibe flowing. For me, it was always either one of the "talking head" shows on ESPN (and its line-up of channels) or the news & "talking head" line-up on MSNBC that I'd have rolling in the background. And then lockdown hit and I slowly realized that was the worst thing I could ever do.

Images: Screencaps

As much as I would love to say that the headline accompanying this was just a slice of no harm, no foul "clickbait love," it's actually pretty much on point. I don't know what shifted about my routine as 2020 rolled along, but by the time the holidays hit I realized that when it comes to inspiring, educating, informing, and overall being an engaging experience? ESPN and MSNBC suuuuuuuuuck. Maybe something about the pandemic forced me to listen a bit more to the background noise, but I have to ask (as someone who now presents himself as a "cautionary tale"): how bad do you have to hate yourself that these nonstop waves of pretentiousness, negativity & fan/viewer-blaming are warm and soothing.

With ESPN, you have a multimedia set-up looking to remain valuable to "The Mouse" and they believe that to do that they have to become glorified PR firms for the athletes rather than actually offering middle-of-the-road, objective reporting & commentary. I understand why they made the shift. Because we live in a social media world where an athlete can easily bypass ESPN and still make a name for themselves if they have strong online news & social media game. So ESPN became "Excusing Sports Personalities Non-stop" and a puppy sticker for them if it's working. But worse than the constant fawning is this move of always trying to get fans to root for the athletes and curse the owners, and then beating up on them when they feel like fans "don't appreciate what athletes go through." Forget the fact that fans have to deal with dive players, loathsome owners, cities that screw them on takes for stadium/arena deals, jacked-up ticket and concession prices, and games shifting to streamers which means more money being spent. So my response? Don't ask people who just want to watch a decent f***ing game at the end of a s****y day to have to choose sides between multi-millionaires and multi-billionaires acting like a-holes. Especially when neither side really gives a flying frog-f**k about the fans. Look no further than how they've handled the Aaron Rodgers/COVID vaccine controversy like it's a "national crisis" that we all need to reflect on and take our own personal responsibility for. I'm guessing that helps fill up more air time than going with Rodgers being arrogantly full-of-s**t, solely responsible for the lies he put out there, and a perfect example of how being "book smart" doesn't translate to having an inch of common sense.

And speaking of talking heads that get to be more wrong than right on a regular basis and yet somehow still keep their jobs. we have the folks over at MSNBC. Now just to be clear, I'm sure this would apply to CNN but I don't watch CNN so I'll leave that to others to judge. And as for "Faux Noose" and the other right-wing s**t-machines out there? Propaganda-spewing s**t-shows don't get a seat at the "big kids' table," sorry. Okay, so I'm looking you directly in the eye when I write this, MSNBC. If everything is "breaking news" then nothing is "breaking news." Can we please start using the red a bit more sparingly? Also, if the topic was "breaking news" but hours have gone by and there are no developments going on to the point where we now just have 6 faces in boxes on the screen guessing about what will happen next? Kill the red and the "breaking news" banner. Also, I'm not saying that MSNBC and other news channels need to be "good vibes" machines churning out nothing but kitten videos and happy endings. But if you are going to feed me a steady stream of bad news, can you at least broaden the topics? If you're going to make me hate humanity then at least give me an appreciation for how I'm hating it from sea to shining sea. At least show me what's going on at more state and local levels. We know Washington D.C. is f**ked-up seven ways to Sunday- get back to us when it isn't because that's real news. That said, on a personal note? Two things. First, whatever Ali Velshi is being paid it should be doubled. I'd bring him aboard if I was starting a news channel. Second, can someone please whisper to Ari Melber that we get it? He likes Rap and R&B. It's starting to vibe a little too "midlife crisis-y" at this point.

So I stopped. Cut them off cold turkey. And while it was weird at first, it's been close to a year, and my mental health during work hours is a s**tload better for it. Instead of screaming faces, doom-n-gloom, and having the "haves" lecturing the "have-nots" for not being good enough in a stacked deck societal situation, my work background is now filled with Pawn Stars, Ridiculousness, Tosh.0, Impractical Jokers, American Dad, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (on those late Friday worknights), and more enjoyable things like that. Do I miss MSNBC or ESPN? Every now and then I get the urge to turn one of them back on for a watch, but thankfully my brain reminds me of the painfully unhealthy & abusive relationship we once had (usually in the form of feeling like I want to puke and the back of my neck getting the sweats) so it passes. Now just to be clear? This was a move that worked for me and I'm happy for it, but "mileage may vary" from one person to the next. Just take a second to consider what you're letting into your heads every day and how that could be influencing you- and not in good ways. I mean, look what happened to Rodgers when he listened to Joe Rogen for COVID vaccination advice…

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About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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