espn logo*When, exactly, did the Worldwide Leader in Sports become such a den of stupidity?

What’s happened to our ESPN? How did the network plunge from its mid-1990s heights to become what it is now – a hollow shell of a channel, filled with and defined by a group of idiotic, blowhard personalities?

Just witness their most recent Their latest plunge into the sea of idiocy comes from their irksome daily talk show First Take, where the columnist Rob Parker spouted off a heaping helping of garbage about Robert Griffin III “only being kind of black” and “not one of us.” Parker, rightly, was suspended from ESPN on Friday morning and will, hopefully, be vanquished from the channel for the rest of time.

Of course, Parker is on the very show that signifies ESPN’s increasing annoyance. In Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, the network seems to have found the two most toxic, loathsome personalities in the entirety of sports broadcasting and, of course, smashed them together. Together, they create a boastful, blustery stream of hot-air nothingness that draws attention – and, usually, not in the right way. The excellent sports reporting website Deadspin has a good summary of the show’s tactics here.

Even worse, ESPN continues to throw good money at Rick Reilly, a sportswriter that exists on a plane of almost complete irrelevancy. The man was a great journalist once – check out his piece on former Reds Owner Marge Schott if you need proof – and his back-page Sports Illustrated columns were once required reading. Now, he seems intent on mailing in his perfunctory ESPN column, making Leno-level jokes on Twitter and childishly yammering and yelping for credit and social-media attention. He’s become an embarrassment, a walking, talking joke every time he appears on camera. Even ESPN’s signature show, Sportscenter has shown some cracks – how about the incessant pumping-in of crappy pop songs with every commercial break? We’d like our sports news without a plug for Green Day’s latest album, thanks.

So, let’s take a few steps back, ESPN. Enough with the bluster. Ax First Take. Put Reilly out to pasture. Take all the filler out of SportsCenter. Concentrate on what’s important – the sports, and just the sports. That’s how we came to love you, and that’s how you’ll regain your soul. Also, if you could bring Dan Patrick back, that would be great. Olbermann can stay at home.