The Americans' ghastly performance at the French Open applied to
television networks as well. ESPN's "coverage" in Paris was a
comedy of unforced errors. A match was truncated to accommodate
the National Spelling Bee, and the network relied too heavily on
tape-delayed matches--sometimes as the on-screen crawl revealed
the outcome. But the biggest sin was a near-pathological aversion
to featuring non-Americans. Time and again, top players were
ignored in favor of reheated coverage of a Yankee Doodle Dandy
such as Serena Williams, whose encounter with Maria Kirilenko was
aired four times. (If there were Geneva accords for sports
broadcasting, ESPN would have hell to pay.) The network says that
the ratings support the decisions; but that's less an explanation
than a self-fulfilling prophecy. When foreign players are
consigned to oblivion for days, naturally ratings will drag when
they make it on air. One can only hope that by Wimbledon, the
self-proclaimed "worldwide leader" in sports refines its
definition of "world." --L. Jon Wertheim