ESPN loves a good Tebow story, even more than a John Wall 47-point performance

No Wall, But Tebow

John Wall scored 47 points, but it’s not here (Photo: @recordsANDradio)

John Wall scored 47 points for the Washington Wizards on Monday night in the team’s 107-94 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. With that, “Wall is the first player to record at least 47 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds in a game since LeBron James recorded 51 points, 8 assists and 11 rebounds on February 3, 2011 against the Magic,” according to ESPN Stats & Research notes in the espn.com game story.

But someone may have forgotten to relay that information on to ESPN.com’s front page news editors. Or perhaps the business model for “The Worldwide Leaders in Sports” calls for clicks and page views to sometimes come before the day’s biggest athletic accomplishments (this makes sense in some ways, but not necessarily if you want to be known as the best source for the latest top stories in sports—which ESPN and it’s parent company very well may not care about as much as maximum revenue).

As @recordsANDradio pointed out on Twitter with a picture of ESPN.com’s headlines, “there’s a Tebow story & no mention of John Wall’s 47/8/7 game.”

I found this amusing since, on Sunday night, I’d noticed a tweet from ESPN’s Darren Rovell about Tebow’s impromptu speech to an NCAA tournament team and made this comment:

And here ESPN was, 27 hours later, still plugging the Tebow story in the main headlines on their website, ahead of a great on-court performance by Wall.

Tebow generates clicks. I get it. And the Tebow speech was a unique event. But shouldn’t a big night on the basketball court come before a day-old story about a guy who attempted eight passes this past NFL season? And that’s not meant as a knock against Tebow.

I’m sure plenty of ESPN’s readers ate up that article about Tebow, which can translate into social sharing, more page views and ad revenue. I found the circumstances of the Tebow speech somewhat interesting myself when I saw Rovell’s tweet about it on Sunday.

But by Monday night, is a story like that from the day before more headline-worthy than one of the top player performances of the 2012-13 NBA season? And what does ESPN want to be known for?

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The tweet that Deadspin left out

Deadspin posted a story Thursday stating, “ESPN has suspended [Bill] Simmons from Twitter for a few days after he called the Skip Bayless-Richard Sherman First Take meltdown last week awful and embarrassing.” In the piece, Deadspin’s John Koblin points out two tweets Simmons sent:

And:

My first thought after reading the Deadspin post and the tweets was that ESPN may have overreacted:

But then I looked through Simmons’ Twitter timeline and saw this tweet he sent immediately before the two linked to in that Deadspin post:

That changed my perspective a bit:

I don’t know exactly which tweet got Simmons suspended. Perhaps it was all of them put together or maybe it was just the two cited in the Deadspin post, which didn’t seem all that bad to me; they were just Simmons’ honest thoughts on the “First Take” Sherman-Bayless segment, which then got retweeted and created even more buzz about it.

But, it would seem to me that the earlier tweet—where Simmons suggested people change the station away from ESPN—is the type that could bother an employer. I imagine that if I essentially tweeted for customers to go find a different product for a while, some of my former bosses might have wanted a word with me. Would it be worthy of a suspension? Maybe. It certainly strikes me as more damaging than the two tweets Simmons sent with his thoughts on the interview.

What I don’t understand is why that tweet wouldn’t be one of the focal points for Deadspin in their article on the suspension. I looked back and found Koblin linked to it in an earlier post on Simmons’ critical tweets, where he says Simmons “started off lightly.” And Koblin does link to that older post in his one about the suspension. But unless a source at ESPN told Deadspin it was the two tweets on the segment specifically that got him suspended, I’d be looking at the one he sent right before those, where he told people to turn off the network he works for.

ESPN should want debate and chatter about their products, even if it means letting their employees be critical of them sometimes. But what they probably shouldn’t want is a guy who works for them telling his 2 million Twitter followers, “don’t watch it.”

Sidenote: Nearly every single bit of this saga seems great for ESPN and their ratings: the segment, the Simmons tweets and the suspension. They might want to look into a pro wrestling approach where they just script all this stuff.