ESPN.com does not feature a constantly-updating Suspension Probability chart for its talent, though if it did, Adrian Wojnarowski's would have jumped up violently as soon as he hit send on his two-word response to Missouri senator Josh Hawley. Woj is not often thought of as a cog in a corporate machine but when it comes down to brass tacks, that's what he is. A valuable and unique cog, to be sure, but part of something that's the sum of its parts and universally fitted with a pair of Mouse ears and profit-focused eyes.
Bad-faith antagonists tend to elbow the ribs and chin a la Bill Laimbeer and aggravation is often the point. Snapping occasionally is human and feels damn good. But an employee just can't do that. Certainly not from a work account. A less valuable one, in fact, would likely be collecting their things in a cardboard box and joining the legions of jobless for such a misstep in judgement -- righteous or otherwise.
Being suspended without pay is a real punishment. Temporarily -- or permanently -- avoiding the NBA bubble in a hotspot of COVID-19 spread is not. This could be a blessing in disguise for Wojnarowski, who can use his downtime to consider if he needs the network more than it needs him. It should be a rather short deliberation.
In the grand scheme of things, this seems like the type of bad P.R. hit ESPN can move past in short time. It's a feather in the cap of those who want to score points against the Big Bad Echo Chamber, to be sure. Credit where credit is due. Hawley got exactly what he wanted out of the situation, as did those who were snitch-tagged.
And perhaps that's where to drill down. What Hawley did was oddly familiar. Trolling marquee media members then going public with their responses feels like a building block of sports blogging. Getting a big-time personality to use a naughty word in your direction and then posting it the crown jewel of a 2009 post. The big boys might link to it. Your Blogspot might get such a large influx of traffic that it crashes. It would have been a great way to get one's name out there.
To paint with a large brush, those who were filling their idle time with such endeavors back then weren't usually tasked with also solving important national problems. It was more likely to be something they did for a few hours after working an insurance job for kicks and giggles. But at some point the script changed dramatically. Those with the most power in this country have opted to harness and unleash it creating Epic Content.
It's not great and is an unfortunate trend on all sides of the aisle. There is an insane amount of time and energy being spent trying to score points in the Great Online Game at the opposition's expense that could be used for more productive endeavors. We're racing toward another hundred thousand dead of a mismanaged pandemic with no real end or plan in sight. Millions of families have been decimated by unemployment and aren't being addressed with substantial help.
Yet we have people arguing about goddamn beans. One side isn't going to eat them and the other is going to make up for it by gorging senselessly. Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike troll the trending bar of websites so they can weigh in with their two cents like some miserable blogger while the country burns.
To this I offer a simple suggestion -- one void of hubris. If that's what you want to do, let's switch jobs. You can even keep the salary. And if you don't want to switch with me, there's any number of and well-meaning and thoughtful Content Creators who would love the opportunity to make a positive impact if given access to the engine of government. There are millions who would happily eschew shouting into the void in favor of showing they actually care about people and not just messaging.
And, yeah, this surely all sounds snarky and aggrieved and unrealistic. Maybe it's all three. But consider, if you can stop being angry long enough to do it, the absolute worthlessness of this whole ordeal. From Hawley sending the original letter to the scores of media recipients who ignored it to the one who didn't and subsequent fallout. Then consider there's a real chance this was Hawley's ideal outcome.
It's all a bit more than screwed-up. ESPN taking swift and bold action to penalize Wojnarowski was predictable. More predictable yet is how the move won't turn down volume even one decibel on those who are using their microphones to shout how bad they are. The whole thing seems short-sighted and unproductive.
Of course, that's probably the point.