Matt Hendrickson is the sports director for Calling All Sports affiliate KJAM Radio in Madison. He figures he’s torpedoed his chances of ever working in Bristol, Connecticut with the following article.

A person once wiser than me said “If you find yourself in a hole, the best thing to do is stop digging.”

Sage advice… let’s see if ESPN follows it.

The so-called “Worldwide Leader in Sports” has been taking in the shorts lately, and has stumbled mightily. It started last year with the ill-advised “The Decision,” which was basically an hour-long spectacle surrounding LeBron James and his decision to go to Miami. Earlier this year, the book “These Guys Have All The Fun” describes the inner workings of the network as not so much a professional broadcasting network, but something that would fit in with Caligula or Sodom and Gomorrah.

These things may have dinged ESPN’s reputation a bit, but nothing too serious. After all, as a fellow broadcaster once said, “Sports is basically the toy department of the media.” After all, there was really nothing to really seriously harm its integrity.

And then there was Bruce.

Bruce being Bruce Feldman. A pretty good writer… a guy who makes his living at ESPN writing and reporting on College Football. So in other words, a pretty knowledgeable guy. However, Bruce has found himself in hot water for co-authoring a book with former Texas A&M head football coach Mike Leach. So much so, that ESPN is to have given him an indefinite suspension.

Why, you say? Well, it all goes back to Leach’s firing at Texas A&M. Leach was a fairly respected coach for the Aggies, helping the team become successful during his tenure. The bottom fell out when there was allegations from ESPN College Football Reporter Craig James that Leach and his staff was abusive to his son, who was a member of the team. All in all, the school fired Leach, who then filed lawsuits against the school, James, and the Public Relations firm James had allegedly hired to smear Leach’s name. Also named as a defendant? You guessed it… ESPN.

Looking at this from a business standpoint, I would think it foolish to allow one of my employees to work on a book with a person who has a lawsuit pending against my company. Granted, ESPN would have taken some flack if they had put the kibosh on Feldman’s partnership before it even began, but at the same time it would be considered understandable in some circles.

But here’s the kicker… Feldman asked for and was given permission by ESPN to do the book. Pretty boilerplate stuff, really. But then some higher-up decided that Feldman had to be punished so they supposedly suspended Feldman indefinitely….for doing something HE WAS GIVEN PERMISSION TO DO.

Needless to say, this has the sports media world all up in arms. Dan Patrick is asking why ESPN hasn’t fired James, there are now Facebook pages and Twitter Feeds, urging the network to “Free Bruce Feldman”… and all the while, ESPN had remained silent.

Finally, the network released this milquetoast statement.
“There was never any suspension or any other form of disciplinary action. We took the time to review his upcoming work assignments in light of the book to which he contributed and will manage any conflicts or other issues as needed. Bruce has resumed his assignments.”

Really? Where were you five hours before when all of this was coming down? AND… if he wasn’t suspended, why was is necessary to say Bruce has resumed his assignments?

I don’t know whether ESPN is suffering from heavy-handedness, incompetence, or both. But it seems to me this network had better take a long, hard look at what they’re doing. A charge of violating journalistic integrity–perceived or actual–is a serious wound to a news-gathering organization’s integrity and reputation.

ESPN has had a LOT of PR foul-ups lately… and it better shape up unless it wants to end up a pariah…. unless it already has become one.