ESPN roused the ire of the internet when it reassigned a play-by-play announcer, Robert Lee, for the Virginia vs William & Mary football game scheduled for September 2, 2017. The stated reason being that Lee has the same name as General Robert E. Lee., and an announcer of that name calling a game played in Virginia might rouse violent passions.
Normally I don’t spend time writing about subjects on which virtually everyone agrees. From all sides of the political divide, and in almost every comment on the story, everyone agrees ESPN made an idiotic decision. The nation is rarely in as uniform agreement as they are with this particular story. So, why am I writing?
It occurred to me that this move might not have been sheer stupidity and political correctness. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never bet against the idea someone making a bad decision is an idiot. However, this decision is so uniformly idiotic that I began to think it was merely a publicity stunt, and a rather ingenious one at that. ESPN gets to hype a football game with only limited regional appeal.
The announcer in question, Robert Lee might well have agreed to the move simply to further his career. Lee might be a great announcer on his way to the pinnacle of his profession or he might be a run-of-the-mill play-by-play man. I don’t know. But I do know that I’ve heard his name now and I’d likely watch a game he broadcast simply to put a face and voice to the name.
There will certainly be future opportunities for him to shine and ESPN might well give him a higher profile game in order to “make-up” for the slight of this reassignment. It’s just possible ESPN planned this entire thing all along. That some publicity agent at the network got the idea and decided to run with it.
Most likely it’s just stupidity. That’s what my money is on. But, if this is a case of genius publicity, then my hat is off to ESPN. Well done, you brilliant geniuses, well done.
By Tom Liberman
Tom Liberman is a regular fellow from St. Louis, Mo., who enjoys spending time with his wonderful family and great friends. He writes Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels in his spare time.