ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt joined the latest edition of “Off The Board,” hosted by Jimmy Traina, and fought back hard against claims the World Wide Leader is dying.
With ESPN recently losing subscribers and facing ratings that aren’t as strong as they once were (Van Pelt’s midnight edition of SportsCenteris actually up 20 percent year-over-year among total viewers), some critics of the network have said its a sinking ship.
Van Pelt is having none of it.
On how frustrated he gets with the narrative that ESPN is in trouble:
“I push back against it. I get it everyday. Largely, people are kind and largely you get compliments. But you do get the sinking-ship narrative. I would try to educate people, but it’s pointless to educate people who don’t care to be educated. I guess people believe that we’re hemorrhaging money when that’s not the case. There are other challenges for us, absolutely. Is the business challenged? Absolutely. Look at our peers. There’s no one in this space that is just hiring on gobs more people and aren’t trying to figure out what to do. What’s the old cliche? The wind blows hardest at the top of the mountain? That’s where we are. That’s what you’re going to get.
Have we invited some of this? Of course we have. We’re trying to figure out in real time and you’re trying not to step on the third rail and it keeps moving. I defend where I work because I know the people and I know the stage and the platform and ultimately I know that although I keep reading we’re gonna get shuttered any day now… that’s the smart people that know, know, but I understand why people bang the drum because it certainly drives conversation. Again, we invite some and we’re also still the biggest. I’d say it’s fine, but it pisses me off and sometimes I swing back because I get tired of hearing it.”
More on critics who say ESPN is dying:
“Again, ‘you’re on a sinking ship. ESPN is dead.’ Define ‘dead’ for me. It’s crazy. I got a nice little deal here and it’s amazing, every couple of weeks the direct deposit is right there and I’m thankful and that’s going to continue so define ‘dead’ for me. The lights continue to be on and again, you can forecast the future and say there are challenges and there are. Decisions to be made and difficult obstacles to overcome and no smart person would refute that, but again, when you say ‘dead and doomed and it’s over,’ that’s just patently false.
And the other thing that nobody will ever answer is, would your life be better if you all these games that you get to see just didn’t exist. That you just didn’t have the place to see all of this. I understand why people just wanna be negative because that’s the world. And it’s only in this make believe space on the Internet. Not once in my whole life has anybody come up to me in an airport or at a game or at a bar or at a grocery store or at a restaurant or anywhere on earth, not once, and said to me, ‘ESPN sucks, you suck, your show sucks. I can’t stand you.’ Not one time. Never.”
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On the constant criticism ESPN gets online:
“This make-believe world where everyone talks shit … this shit-talking, poke-you-in-the-chest virtual whatever it’s just there’s nothing more chicken shit than that, because it’s the easiest thing in the world to do and again, if that’s how people really felt, somewhere along the line, I would’ve intersected with someone that felt that way and came up and said, ‘Hey, I think your show sucks. I think ESPN sucks and I think you guys are doomed.’ Never. Not once.”
On people saying they’ve cancelled ESPN:
"If you truly wanna boycott the NFL and you wanna boycott ESPN, the notion that some guy sitting out there, or gal, and they decide, ‘you know what, I’m gonna cut my entire cable package because ESPN gave an award on a made-up show in July because there’s no sports, to a woman who used to be a man, so I’m now not gonna have any cable TV at all and I’m gonna sit around at night and read books by candlelight like olden times because of that,’ that’s not happening. And if you did that, then you’re so dumb that I can’t even pray for you because you’re beyond hope. If that was your reaction to this, was to deny yourself the ability to watch television, I mean that just hasn’t happened and didn’t happen, so I boycott them."
During the podcast, Van Pelt also talked about why he has no interest in covering LaVar Ball’s antics, his relationship with Barstool Sports and the controversy surrounding Barstool Van Talk and ESPN, the best and worst thing about hosting the midnight SportCenter, Twitter, his favorite people to interview and his reaction to Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger telling him he wasn't familiar with Jerry Seinfeld during an interview.