October 23, 2003

Busting Greg Easterbrook

All right, everybody, let’s just take a deep breath and ask ourselves one question: Why did Gregg Easterbrook receive a hot, steaming cup of STFU! from ESPN as he was shown the door, and who, really, did the deed?

There have been a lot of garment-rending posts from here and there that it was that Darth Vader of Disney, Michael Eisner, that sent Gregg to sleep with the fishes.

Indeed, my reliable sources have it that Gregg himself has been whining and moaning in this wise all week. Not a hint from him that, for all that he is hip to the ways of the online world, he “just forgot” that “The Send Button Is Forever.” This is similar to the Pryoresque plea; “You Honor, I forgot armed robbery is illegal!”

Nope, it is all “a rank injustice” because, wait for it, he apologized for calling a couple of the most powerful people in the media ‘money-grubbing Jews.’ This is the “But I took it back!” explanation that you last used in the schoolyard just before a peer planted you flat on your back with one punch.

Of course, the fact that Disney “silenced” this “great sports writer” [and repentant Jew-baiter], quickly became a corporate attack on ‘free speech,’ an example of the crass vindictiveness of Michael Eisner, and a shining example of the continuing evil kingdom that is Disney.

This is, of course, all complete and utter hogwash.

It is hogwash composed of two all-too-human emotional fluids: shame and envy. Shame because many online commentators thought they may have had a hand in breaking one of Easterbrook’s multiple rice bowls. Envy in that many people online and off just cannot stand the fact that Michael Eisner is very rich and very powerful. Hence, Eisner just has to be sitting up at the top of his massive empire, sending down ukases demanding this or that head. Hogwash, as noted above.

Men like Eisner may have more money and power than the rest of us, but they have just as many minutes as all of us and they don’t spend their time reading blogs or bothering about the anklebiters below. They have empires to run and it takes a lot of time. What really goes on is this.

Deep within the corporate realms that folks like Eisner rule there is a widespread executive survival environment. This econiche is finely tuned and so sensitive that someone of Eisner’s rank doesn’t have to know about anti-Semitic insults such as Easterbrook’s, and, what is more, he never, ever, has to make any calls about these petty irritations.

Why? Because nobody, and I mean NOBODY, working under executives like Eisner wants to ever get The Call. And if they do get The Call, what they want to be able to say is: “Oh, that Easterbrook guy? He was history last week, Mike. Scrubbed all his blather off our boards before he could read the termination email. Yes, great. We’ll do that the next time I’m out. How’s the family?”

So who did see to it that Easterbrook was retroactively never at ESPN Online? Companies never comment on this, but my money’s on Mr. John Skipper, Senior Vice President and General Manager of ESPN.com and ESPN, the Magazine. He probably got an email from an underling, meditated on what to do between two sips of coffee, typed out something like “Erase this Bozo .” And hit “Send.”

And “The Send Button Is Forever.”

Anticipating the happiness of the CEO is the key to upward movement in the world. Always has been and always will be.

But in the final analysis, who exactly did fire Easterbrook from ESPN Online?

Easterbrook. Autopsy Report: Self-Inflicted Death by “Send.”

Posted by Vanderleun at October 23, 2003 11:54 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

You hit the nail on the head with this one. I generally agree with Lessig but in this case I think he might be expressing a slight Disney-ified paranoia. (It’s an ‘offense to society’ if Easterbrook was fired for criticizing his boss? Please.) Poor guy probably has nightmares where Eisner is chasing him around the deck of Steamboat Willie at the point of Peter Pan's sword.

As an aside, your links don’t seem to be working. For some reason your domain is appended to the front of the link URL.

Posted by: Kurt at October 23, 2003 4:27 PM

Yeah, me too. The idea that Eisner sits around reading blogs is ludicrous. I figured it was someone at ESPN who decided that they'd had enough of a headache with that Rush Limbaugh thing and decided to pull this weed before it took over the whole backyard.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at October 23, 2003 9:47 PM

I agree about the blog-reading, but in that vein, one notices that he was fired only AFTER this hit the LA Times and the NYT both. It is not too much to suppose that Eisner subscribes to a clipping service including both these fine purveyors of news product.

Posted by: jeanne a e devoto at October 24, 2003 9:43 PM

This is maybe the best take I've seen on this flap, which I just can't stop blogging and commenting about, for reasons I can't really fathom.
One of the most amazing things was how so many raised hue and cry that it was Eisner who fired him, based on, as far as I can tell, no evidence whatsoever. There was, of course, that one piece of "evidence", you know the one, which he has since made disappear just like his archives on ESPN.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 27, 2003 10:09 AM