Last night an historic event in the annals of modern sports took place in Duluth, Georgia. And ESPN totally ignored it.
With every major sport shutting down events here in the U.S., PBR (Professional Bull Riders) was the only one on American soil still in action, pulling off a made-for-TV event for CBS Sports Network and RidePass, its streaming network.
At the end of perhaps the most stressful week for the country and world since 9.11, boy did America need this.
The “closed” Gwinnett Invitational took place without a single fan in attendance after PBR took a series of measures to ensure the health and safety of the athletes, who were there voluntarily, along with the hardest-working crew in sports.
In an injury-riddled season, for the second week in a row a PBR rookie, Mauricio Moreira, climbed to the top of the Can-Am cage to rocket up the standings.
Though all of this, ESPN along with every major sports outlet outside of USA TODAY ( (https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2020/03/13/coronavirus-professional-bull-riders-take-center-stage-saturday/5048183002/
and CBS Sports https://www.cbssports.com/general/news/professional-bull-riders-will-hold-event-in-georgia-this-weekend-and-you-can-watch-it-on-cbs-sports-network/amp/ has fully ignored a massive sports story, one that also includes feel-good elements we need right now, such as vigilance, determination, teamwork and brotherhood.
PBR is quietly doing its thing and is appropriately not crowing about this. But it’s no secret to sports media gatekeepers what the sport is accomplishing — courageously, and with a series of safety measures that could possibly instruct others.
Granted, I haven’t been watching SportsCenter or other ESPN shows 24/7, but I haven’t seen a single highlight, even when the actual moving pictures of powerful bulls bucking in an empty arena were surreal and sad and triumphant all at the same time.
I haven’t seen a single story about the cowboys who aren’t on long-term contracts and can’t go on the IR, and must compete to put food on the table.
I didn’t hear a peep about PBR with skeleton crews using radios to keep them separated as much as possible, pulling off a major sporting event that had brought in 750 tons of dirt and miles of steel and cable to turn the Infinite Energy Center into a bull-riding mecca.
I didn’t see a single mention of young Mauricio Moreira, who came to the U.S. under three months ago, taking home more pay on one night than his entire last year in Brazil.
What makes this event more puzzling – and to PBR fans, infuriating – is that we’re not talking about some hillbilly, fringe sport. PBR is mainstream. It sells out arenas including Madison Square Garden, STAPLES Center, and T-Mobile Arena. It’s on occasion pulled ratings larger than NASCAR, PGA, X-GAMES, and U.S. Open Tennis, — all great sports that ESPN covers routinely.
Watching the news, you hear lots of criticism about response to the COVID-19 virus.
I’ll tell you who is asleep at the switch. It’s ESPN. And other national sports media.
But there’s time for redemption. Championship Sunday starts at Noon ET.
ESPN, put on your darn news hat. Do the right thing and be the WORLDWIDE LEADER for sports fans. Cover this extraordinary sporting event happening before your own eyes.