Hey ESPN, What Are The Chances?

“If you change your mind, I’m the first in line

Honey I’m still free

Take a chance on me”

                                                                                                  ABBA

I have mentioned, on numerous occasions, in this space that I am a four decades veteran of sports television broadcasting and as such spend some part of nearly every day exasperated, agitated or aggravated at something I see or hear while watching sports TV. But nothing irritates me more these days than hearing various announcers on ESPN tout the broadcasting behemoth’s Football Power Index (FPI) as an accurate predictor of the outcome of sporting contests. No one does it more, on any of the network’s talk, or opinion shows, than Mike Greenberg but as I scroll through all the channels that ESPN offers the ubiquitous “Bottom Line” scrolls constantly at the bottom of my screen heralding the figures from the mostly statistic based, gratingly nebulous, FPI.

“What’s the problem?” you ask.

Why the agita?” you wonder

The reason for my consternation is simple; one monosyllabic word, “chance“.

Webster defines “chance” in a number of ways, first and foremost it is, “the absence of any cause of events that can be predicted, understood or controlled: often personified or treated as a positive agency: Chance governs all.” The second definition further bolsters my campaign for change defining “chance” as, “luck or fortune”.

So when Mike Greenberg quotes ESPN’s FPI, or I read it for myself on the “Bottom Line”, that Alabama has a 56% chance of winning its bowl game or the Carolina Panthers have a 23% chance of going undefeated I cry “foul” at my television screen. In reality there is a 100% chance of BOTH things happening. I have a better source than Webster to come to my defense. I need only think back to the movie making mastery of Dumb and Dumber when Jim Carrey’s character Lloyd asks Lauren Holly’s character Mary what the chances are of them ending up together. After some thought and back and forth she tells him that the odds are one in a million to which he famously, quotably and happily responds, “So you’re saying there’s a chance!”

I know the folks in Bristol don’t want to hear it but the way to fix this confusion is simple; change the word! The way to do it comes once again from a book most people use far too infrequently, the dictionary. Back to Webster which lists the third preferred definition of “chance” as, “a possibility or probability of anything happening.”

“There it is!” you say

“So what’s the problem?” you wonder

Yes it’s there, I agree and the problem is Webster gives ESPN the perfect words to use to  clear up any ambiguity right there in black and white but the network refuses to take advantage of the opportunity. Just have Mike Greenberg and the “Bottom Line” use plain English and tell me, and every other viewer, whether they care or don’t care about semantics, that Alabama has a 56% “probability” of winning its bowl game or the Carolina Panthers have a 23% “possibility” of going undefeated. Either word is more correct than “chance” and both clear up any confusion while saving me the money I’m currently spending on TUMS.

The reasons for ESPN not doing this could be varied. Maybe the intern, PA, or AP responsible for the verbiage is following orders, maybe that person is lazy or maybe that young man or woman, fresh out of Syracuse, worries that it will make life miserable for the enunciation challenged Adnan Virk. Whatever the reason I implore my former colleagues and bosses at ESPN to think of the viewer and do the right thing and CHANGE THE WORD!

I know, fat chance.

About Keith Hirshland

My name is Keith Hirshland and I am a four decades television veteran who has spent time both in front of and behind the camera. During nearly forty years in broadcasting my path has crossed in front of, behind and alongside some of the best in the business... And some of the worst. Many of those people I count as friends while others wouldn't make the effort to spit on me if I was on fire. This television life started early watching my Mom and Dad found, fund and run a local affiliate TV station in Reno, Nevada. As a teenager approaching adulthood I worked for them, first as an on-air sports reporter/anchor and later as a director and producer. Jobs in the industry took me across the country and then to many places around the world. Sports is my passion and putting it on TV has been my business. Production credits include auto racing, baseball, basketball, bowling, college football, field hockey, soccer, volleyball and water polo but the majority of my time "in the chair" since 1990 has been invested in the game of golf with both ESPN and The Golf. Channel ( I was one of the first forty people hired by TGC in 1994 ). I am a fan and I watch TV sports as a fan but I also have hundreds of thousands of hours watching from inside a production truck. I think that makes me qualified to comment, my hope is you agree. I have written two books, Cover Me Boys, I'm Going In (Tales of the Tube from a Broadcast Brat), a memoir that is a tribute to my parents, the hard working, creative people who started ESPN2 and The Golf Channel and a look back at my life in television. My second book is a novel, Big Flies, and is a mystery that tells the story of a father and a son with four of the world's most notorious unsolved robberies as a backdrop. I look forward to sharing new thoughts about golf, golf television, sports in general and the broadcast industry with you. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They are not connected to nor endorsed by any other person, association, company or organization.
This entry was posted in general observations, sports and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Hey ESPN, What Are The Chances?

  1. Jon Painter says:

    5 extra letters on the graphic, though, Keith. 5 whole letters.

    Liked by 1 person

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