ESPN’s Marvel-Themed NBA Game Was The Sweatiest, Most Painfully Shoehorned Crossover Event By Any Sports Media Company This Week
10:16 AM EDT on May 4, 2021
This week, Defector has chosen to curate a collection of writing inspired by two entities that have had an indelible effect on North America: the upper house of the United States Congress and Eugene Melnyk’s pro hockey team. This is Senators Week.
Billions of dollars had to be spent in order to force Tim Kurkjian to dress up like Yoda as he talks about baseball. Disney owns ESPN, and Disney also owns Star Wars, so when Disney wants to mash its action figures together and make blaster noises, it can do that. And if it wants ESPN's baseball crew to wear costumes while breaking down the national broadcast of Astros-Yankees tonight, it can do that too, with Kurkjian as Yoda, Karl Ravech as Luke Skywalker, and Eduardo Perez as a Jawa.
If it chooses to do so, Disney can apply the same exercise to Marvel, another billion-dollar entity it owns. Monday night's Warriors-Pelicans game had, in addition to a traditional broadcast on ESPN, a special "Marvel-inspired alternate presentation" on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+. The gist of this "sports content collaboration" was that the Avengers were searching for new recruits to help them fight an alien enemy, and the heroes decided that one of the stars of an NBA game might be worthy. Who would save the world? Would it be Draymond Green, Lonzo Ball, or another player unlucky enough to not be a DNP?
This idea is definitely not for me, although I can grasp that there are kids or other age demographics who would be drawn to this the same way they were when SpongeBob presented a 21-9 NFL playoff game. But it's still a bizarre way to combine two things with established mass appeal under the notion that they'd somehow be greater than the sum of their parts. The actual result was a number of annoying, distracting graphics overlaid onto a basketball broadcast, and then seemingly endless promos for some upcoming Marvel shit on Disney+.
Hey, there's Iron Man. Iron Man is lurking! Cool. That's awesome. It really adds a new dimension to the way we watch sports. I feel like I'm right there, watching Iron Man watch a Western Conference matchup with play-in implications.
Think of the amount of money dictating the decisions that led to Black Panther hopping down to watch a free throw. It is more than you or I will ever make in our lives. Do you know how many people had to say "cross-platform" and "enhanced experience" to get this to happen?
When ESPN said Black Panther respects the abilities of Andrew Wiggins, it became difficult for me to think of a sports media company making a more desperate attempt to connect two topics that have less to do with each other. There is nothing organic to be found here. It's all cynicism and aspartame. There are plenty of ways to describe the failures of this concept: incoherent, pandering, self-satisfied. The entire endeavor does not reflect well on those responsible for green-lighting it and allowing it to exist.
Missed any of our earlier Senators Week coverage? Click here to read it all.