I've been a low-level ESPN junkie ever since my family got basic cable, and a chronic ESPN.com junkie ever since I first got high-speed internet in 2000. I could list the reasons here, but I know I don't need to; everyone here is very familiar with the network and the site, and knows what made them both so successful for so many years.
That being said, as the network has carved out an ever-larger financial stake in the sports it covers, things have gradually changed. Over the past year, the sports world has seen a number of flashpoints of varying importance; in nearly all cases, ESPN's response has varied from embarrassing to reprehensible, with my patronage of ESPN becoming more and more tenuous each time.
As of today, I've decided I'm done. After all their unethical conduct over the past year, watching them try to disclaim responsibility in the Syracuse scandal is just too much. I'm going to spend the next few paragraphs talking about the specific instances that have motivated my decision; I won't dwell on them for too long, since, as sports fans, I know you're already familiar with them.
The Mike Leach/Craig James conflict: I'd never been much of a Craig James fan, especially after he called JoePa an "old fart" during game coverage. But, as this story was first emerging, I only paid scant attention, and I bought into ESPN's narrative of Mike Leach losing control and poor Craig James being caught in an awkward position without even really thinking about it. Then, as the story lingered on, I took enough interest to start looking at it with a critical eye; it didn't take long to find stories about the network parroting stories cooked up by James's PR firm. Seeing how unethically and dishonestly they'd handled this story made me angry at ESPN, and angry at myself for accepting their narrative without question.
#freebruce: This was the first time I temporarily boycotted the network and the site. I'd already started going to Yahoo! Sports, SBNation, CBSSports.com, and SI.com over ESPN.com as a result of the Leach/James thing. Now, to see them censoring and disciplining a journalist as respected as Feldman over something like "Swing Your Sword" was enough for me to take a serious break for a while.
The Longhorn Network: ESPN's ever-growing financial stake in coverage of college sports had rubbed me the wrong way for a while, but I held special disdain for the Longhorn Network. On its own, it looks like a stupid idea with some potentially negative unintended consequences. When looked at in conjunction with everything else the network's been doing, I started to have serious concerns about the effect the network was having on college football.
The Miami Scandal: Yahoo! Sports had started beating everyone to the punch on some major stories over the previous year, and it was starting to make "The Worldwide Leader" look pretty bad. I just remember the night after the Robinson/Wetzel story broke on Yahoo! Sports, Miami was the lead story on every major website I was reading... except ESPN. It's not even clear what ESPN's agenda was here, aside from pouting over the fact that Yahoo! had proved its superiority yet again. But if that's the kind of judgment they're going to exercise, I'm just not going to rely on them for news at all.
The Sandusky Scandal: Yeah, ESPN's coverage was bad. I'm not going to go into great detail here. But the one "story" that made my blood boil more than any other was "Review: Joe Paterno in line for pension." This wasn't news. This wasn't commentary. This was just a naked attempt at keeping an angry mob riled up. Since seeing that headline on the site's front page, I have stopped reading everything on the site except for the Big Ten Blog.
The Bernie Fine Scandal: This was the last straw. I've been busy all week, so I didn't really get a chance to catch up on this story until this evening. I could spend a couple paragraphs ranting about hypocrisy and doublespeak, but the straw that broke the camel's back can be found here, in the Syracuse Chancellor's statement, and in ESPN's selective reporting of that statement.