A recent story in the Washington Post highlights an editing decision made by a major sports network which, in light of recent events, is rather suspicious.
Recently, ESPN parted ways with former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling who had been hired on by the network as a baseball analyst. ESPN found Mr. Schilling’s recent social media posts to be out of line, and I will admit that I find a lot of the stuff Mr. Schilling posted to be rather distasteful and tacky. (I’m not going to get into what’s been said about others at ESPN having similar viewpoints that haven’t been posted to social media; that’s a bit tangential to the main focus of this post, though it is noteworthy. I don’t have the specifics handy at the moment, but I may explore that issue deeper in a later post.)
However, what ESPN did next isn’t much better. ESPN needed to edit down a documentary (for time) about the 2004 ALCS series and the amazing comeback staged by the Boston Red Sox to come back and win the series in seven games after losing the first three in a row. Mr. Schilling’s performance in Game 6, known to many baseball fans (Red Sox and otherwise) as the “bloody sock game”, was central to the team’s comeback effort. Surprisingly, somebody at ESPN decided to cut the entirety of the portion about that Game 6, basically cutting Mr. Schilling out of that airing completely. From the story:
“When a live event runs long, it’s standard procedure to shorten a taped program that follows,” an ESPN spokesman told The Post. “In this case, we needed to edit out one of the film’s four segments to account for the extra length of the softball game.”
What an amazing coincidence! This looks incredibly bad on ESPN; I don’t care what Mr. Schilling said or why ESPN felt it was necessary to fire him. The editing gaffe that ESPN made here is paramount to revisionism and basically says that Mr. Schilling’s Game 6 performance is less important than what happened in Games 4, 5, and 7, or put another way, that the Red Sox could have won that ALCS without him. Looked at another way, the edit by ESPN says they would rather pretend Game 6 didn’t even happen, because of who pitched most of it (Mr. Schilling). Any way you slice it, this is pretty distasteful and I don’t buy that it’s a mere coincidence in the least.
The best parallel I can draw here is in chess, with the late Bobby Fischer’s somewhat well-known “fuck the US” rant shortly after the terrorist attacks on 2001-09-11. I believe it is possible to condemn the increasingly radical political viewpoints held by Mr. Fischer during his later years, and still positively reflect on his contributions to the chess community during the 1970s and 1980s. Of course, the two situations are not identical in the least. (Mr. Fischer didn’t return to the US after a rematch with Boris Spassky in 1992, due to the fact the match violated a UN trade embargo and an executive order from then-President George H. W. Bush, and there was a warrant for his arrest issued at the conclusion of the match. Mr. Fischer lived as a fugitive for years never returning to the US for the final 16 years or so of his life.)
Even today within the chess world, Mr. Fischer’s anti-American and anti-Semitic rants in his later life are the source of quite a bit of debate. And maybe I am the odd one out for having different opinions of Mr. Fischer as a chess player up to the 1970s versus Mr. Fischer post-1992, or having different opinions of Mr. Schilling’s performance as a baseball player versus Mr. Schilling as a baseball analyst and social media user.
Regardless of whatever animosity ESPN may have towards Mr. Schilling, “coincidentally” editing out a segment which covers perhaps his best known accomplishment for time presents entirely the wrong impression. Hopefully they won’t get this one wrong again.