By now, you’ve probably heard about former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling getting the boot from ESPN. The recently fired Major League Baseball analyst for the “worldwide leader in sports” has had a history of repeatedly controversial posts on social media.
“ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.” (USA Today)
Schilling’s social media miscues, at least in the eyes of ESPN, included comparisons between Muslims and Nazis, an anti-transgender meme re: public restroom use, and speaking out in defense of Dr. Ben Carson’s view of not wanting a Muslim president. After multiple suspensions from ESPN, the network decided after the transgender meme, it was time to part ways with the 3-time World Series champion.
Going back nearly 12 years to October 2004, Schilling helped lead an improbable and nearly impossible comeback in the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox were down 3-games-to-zero in a best-of-seven to their arch-rival, the New York Yankees. With Boston down 3-games-to-two, Schilling tossed seven innings of brilliant baseball leading to a Red Sox win.
The interesting wrinkle is Schilling, prior to Game 6, suffered a torn ankle tendon sheath. The team doctors sutured up his ankle and he was ready to go. However, the sutures came apart during Schilling’s masterpiece of a performance and bled into his sock. Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS has become a part of baseball lore as “the bloody sock game.”
ESPN documented this series very well. They’ve created this wonderful series of documentaries called “30 for 30.” Titled “Four Days in October,” they chronicled how the Red Sox never gave up in this series despite facing a sweep at the hands of their nemesis. The story can’t help but write itself. “Four Days in October” had a great talking point in the “bloody sock game” because of the circumstances. It showed grit, perseverance and “ice in the veins.”
Having said all that, in a re-airing of “Four Days in October,” following a college softball match that went long and prior to Sunday Night Baseball, the “bloody sock game” content was completely removed from the documentary. It was removed altogether, but just for that one night.
Now, Schilling is visibly upset and there’s no denying his anger. I would be upset as well. You were documented as an important cog in a machine that did the unthinkable. Nobody, and especially not ESPN, can take that away from you.
One part of me can understand why ESPN did what they did. They’re a multimedia network that has roots in television. They understand that having recorded programming to either join in progress or edit for the sake of time is vitally important. I get that. Many TV networks, if not all, are like that. I also understand that it’s a “re-airing” of the film. Most sports fans have probably seen it, but there are many who probably hadn’t seen it yet.
I just find it a little “convenient” that ESPN took out Schilling’s “bloody sock game” “for the sake of time.” This was in a statement from the network on why they edited out what they did:
When a live event runs long, it’s standard procedure to shorten a taped program that follows. In this case, we needed to edit out one of the film’s four segments to account for the extra length of the softball game. (Boston.com)
Employers and employees that do not have amicable breakups are bound to have some sort of animosity between one another. This happens more often with the employee being upset with the company. However, you live, learn and move on with your life.
I just don’t understand why ESPN couldn’t have joined the documentary “in progress.” This would’ve saved them a giant headache. It’s bad enough when you edit the film – some would say history – for the sake of time to get to your next live program.
What you must understand is that while I understand why Schilling is upset, his political views should’ve been kept to himself, or at least off social media. There’s a time and a place for everything. That being said, ESPN should learn that you cannot remove an important talking point on a topic that helped shape what it’s become.
Whether it’s Dave Roberts stealing 2nd in the 9th inning of Game 4, David Ortiz’s 14th-inning game-winning blooper, or Curt Schilling’s “bloody sock,” these moments are crucial to discussing one of the most incredible, if not the best, comebacks in sports history. ESPN dropped the ball (pardon the pun) and deserves to reap what they sowed.