Your mileage may vary but here's how I view it. Society's collective content arm is oversaturated, though one should never give up on their dreams of ascending to the top of this competitive industry. To do so, now more than ever, requires resonating with 100 percent authenticity or by being the squeakiest wheel prone to punch up at every turn. Once someone arrives at a place where they have a national platform — be it on ESPN or Fox Sports or any number of competitors — they enter into an unspoken agreement with the audience. They're allowed to be characters of themselves with the performance amped up for effect. They're allowed to be professional wrestlers on the microphone to elicit maximum response and engagement.
If one divorces themselves from the entertainment, it's a profoundly stupid and silly ecosystem. And it's all fun and games until someone's feelings are actually hurt, which is happening with some regularity as the bits continue to go too far. In one corner you have Russell Westbrook champing at the bit, daring Skip Bayless to ridicule his surname again. In the other you have a 70-year-old man clearly working through some stuff doing what he does best: be insufferable. In one corner you have Draymond Green trying to change the world with a New Media plan that's dreadfully undercooked. In the other you have Kendrick Perkins boiling with righteous anger after being the target of a slur. Somewhere in the middle there you have Bristol and Colin Cowherd.
Transparency requires this admission. Lowly sports blogs like this one bask warmly in the interest and traffic generated by these media beefs. They are rising tides that lift distant boats as far as the nearest estuary. If they were to go away, it'd be bad for our business. Yet they probably should. Or, at the very least, the rhetoric should be dialed down before the ecosystem gets out of hand for good.
My global brain suggestion? Everyone involved in the Athlete vs. Content Creator rivalry needs to chill out a bit. It's so simple it could work. We don't actually need the escalations. Because they will only grow more severe and more damaging. Worse, the incentive structure will shift to reward the most combative, hyperbolic discourse. It happened in the political sphere and is now hopelessly irreversible. It's closer to happening in the sporting world than most people realize, and that process could be fast-tracked if Green's New Media venture continues to overstep boundaries.
Make no mistake. The Perkins-Green salvos were harmless until they weren't. Fresh off his fourth NBA crown, the Golden State Warriors' heart and soul needlessly fired a slur. It was shockingly over the line and The Volume should not escape scrutiny for publishing it, promoting it, and then declining an opportunity to stand behind it. Perkins' rebuttal was understandable, but not the type of thing legacy employers are going to enjoy being associated with. I am told that Perkins received strong support internally even though he eventually took the post down.
Make no mistake. Bayless is a habitual line-stepper. When he discovers something bothers one of his targets, he doubles down. He's interested in two things: waking up extremely early and hating all the live-long day, and guess what, he's already woken up. Westbrook's desire to not have his last name ridiculed is a small concession to make and yet we all know that the Westbricks will continue until morale declines or ratings improve.
Any number of savvy observers can give you reasons as to why sports media — and sports shouting in particular — have gone down this route. Anyone paying attention can feel pretty confident that there won't be a detour. Yet if there could be a moment for a collective breath and de-escalation, there could be a realization that all of this is performative, even if it leads to actual hurt feelings and bad blood.
The take-o-sphere has become so competitive that the top end treats any given Tuesday like it's Game 7 of the NBA Finals and their frigid studios like the actual hardwood. This may sound reductive and obvious, but it's not. It's people sharing their opinions about basketball. The actual stakes are, in reality, laughably low. Sports are supposed to be fun and the consumption of the ancillary content around them would also, in an ideal world, be a breezy diversion.
It's worth asking if anyone involved in this rising of tension is actually having fun. A certain rubbernecking faction of the audience may be, but a larger portion is growing tired of everyone being a heel. More importantly, the human beings tasked with being larger than life are too often finding spillage into their regular lives and real emotions.
Is it too late for everyone to just chill out a bit before things get worse?