ESPN's Playmakers strikes out

In a miasma that includes football players smoking crack at halftime, covering up a murder and generally engaging in a diverse pattern of violent, criminal behavior, we have unfortunately witnessed another distortion of reality. This is a blanket reference to the fictional sports drama called "Playmakers," ESPN's racist, stereotypical depiction of pro football.

It rivals the nonsense spouted by redneck windbag Rush Limbaugh before his appropriate exile from the all-sports network for his vicious attack on quarterback Donovan McNabb and the sporting press.

This cliché-ridden program doesn't make any overt reference to the NFL, but this exaggerated program has definitely offended the league. "People are going to think we're really like that garbage, and that's a shame," Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed said. "It's not anywhere close to true. There are a lot of good people in this locker room.

"Because it's on ESPN, some people will believe this is what we're like. It's show business. What can you do?"

Not much, Ed, except change the channel.

While ESPN has broken new ground in television, its self-promotional bent is a tad nauseating. Between its Internet site stealing quotes without attribution from local reporters to the constant pop-culture references on SportsCenter, this is a shallow channel with little regard, at times, for truth and fairness.

The fictional Cougars backfield features crack-addicted, brash rookie runner D.H Hunter, wife-beating, has-been tailback Leon Taylor and womanizing, Joe Namath wannabe quarterback Derek McConnell.

Of course, McConnell is hooked on pain-killers. The team doctor is a quack. And the head coach might be dying.

Not to mention the steroid freaks and self-destructive lunatics lurking in a completely dysfunctional locker room. Viewers might wonder if their real-life heroes are roaming the streets searching for crack.

Hunter lies to a police officer and says a member of his 'posse' was socializing with him and a 'groupie' at a club while a rabid fan was killed in an adjacent alley. Actually, the so-called friend was guilty of the crime. ESPN is guilty of overkill.

"ESPN should know better," Ravens defensive end Jarret Johnson said. "They have the access to what the league is really like. Why would they do this? It's so sensationalistic. Basically, I think the show sucks and they should cancel it."

Why would ESPN develop this hackneyed sports drama? Ratings and money, of course. That's their chief bottom line. ESPN reportedly pays the NFL $800 million per year for broadcast rights.

When the head coach refuses to play Hunter unless he goes into detox, the crackhead still manages to get his fix. Just another gem from the people who brought us "Junction Boys" and "A Season on the Brink."

The league should ponder the counsel of Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and consider a network partner with higher taste and journalistic values when the television contract expires.

"I hate what this show stands for," Ravens linebacker Cornell Brown said. "They should be embarrassed, but they won't be. They'll put anything on television. That's the truth. Playmakers is horrible."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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