I’m in the information business, my friends, which means I’m in the business of staying informed most of the day online, so you can imagine my dismay when ESPN, the worldwide leader for everything that counts in my life, recently overhauled its Web site.
That’s right — in the middle of the night, like those moving vans the Colts used when they snuck out from Baltimore to Indianapolis 31 years ago, ESPN whisked away my fits-like-an-old-pair-of-slippers ESPN.com and wheeled in a spanking new ESPN.com.
They posted a link to an article explaining this, which began, “So, as you might have noticed, we’ve redesigned our website.”
Might have noticed?
That’s like building a casino in the middle of the desert and saying, “So, as you might have noticed, there are slot machines now where there used to be sand dunes.”
(Let me stop myself right here with the required disclosure: I work for ESPN. But I’m not beholden to ESPN; heck, the closest I’ve ever been to Bristol is the ESPN Zone in Las Vegas. Anyway, ESPN pays me to talk about poker and nothing else. They certainly don’t pay me to talk about the redesign of the Web site — I am doing this “off the clock.”)
In the interest of fairness, it should be pointed out that ESPN.com’s redesign has been lauded by most people. Alas, I am not most people.
For starters, I hate any redesign; frankly, I hate change in general. If 7-Eleven switches its pork rinds from Aisle 2 to Aisle 3, I’m paralyzed for weeks.
By nature, a Web designer looks at a Web space and thinks, “That needs to be redesigned.” I don’t trust the whole lot of ’em. If Web designers got hold of, say, the Capitol building in Washington, it would have stripes and a retractable dome.
Now, as much as I disdain the new ESPN.com, it’s not nearly the calamity that occurred when those bumble heads at Sports Illustrated redesigned SI.com. I mean, these days you don’t go onto SI.com without a flashlight, a Rand McNally map and a Costco-sized bottle of antacid.
(Actually, Sports Illustrated’s two most marketable assets are the swimsuit issue and Peter King. Considering the swimsuit issue comes out once a year and Peter King is right about once a year, why would anyone go to SI.com in the first place?)
I’ll say this about the new ESPN.com: Somebody finally cut Bill Simmons down to size. The Grantland guru’s head is so tiny on the home page, it looks like a postage stamp in a diorama; if his head gets any smaller, he’ll be working for USA Today.
So what exactly is wrong with the contemporary, cutting-edge ESPN.com?
There’s just too much going on — it feels like I’ve walked into a pinball machine.
The old ESPN.com seemed manageable, almost homey. Now it’s as if I’m wandering through a shopping mall that never ends.
(I’ve reached the age where if I’m scrolling long enough, I forget what I’m looking for.)
Sure, everything loads faster on ESPN.com. But I liked it when stuff loaded slowly; while waiting for the video, I used to multi-task, maybe whip off a tweet or two criticizing Donald Trump or Starbucks.
(Speaking of which, “ESPN Now,” on the right side of the new home page, is this Twitter-like stream of real-time conversation. Uh, if I wanted Twitter-like, I’d go to Twitter.)
I understand the problem is me, not them. I’m old-fashioned: I use a desktop, and I use a laptop; I even use a rotary-dial phone, where available. I love calling my parents’ home — it’s the only place I still get a busy signal.
The redesign, we’re told, is weighted toward mobile users; in January, 61 percent of visitors to ESPN.com accessed it on a mobile device. But, hey, I’m just not going to be checking NHL scores on my Samsung Galaxy S4 while battling road rage on the 405.
So, yes, the new ESPN.com is for people on the move. This does not include Couch Slouch — I’m only on the move between the beanbag chair and the bathroom.
God, I miss newspapers.
Q. Seven Kentucky players are leaving school early to enter the NBA draft. How will they complete their education? (Mark A. Roberts; Indianapolis)
A. They can obtain whatever handful of credits they need for their degrees at Amazon.com.
Q. Did you stay with the entirety of the 19-inning, 6-hour 49-minute Red Sox-Yankees game last week? (Kevin Elder; Spokane, Wash.)
A. I actually fell asleep watching Mike Napoli spitting during his first at-bat.
Q. In the NCAA men’s basketball title game, Wisconsin was called for two fouls in the first half and 13 in the second half. What halftime adjustments did Coach K make to get the referees back on track to playing Duke basketball? (Ed Cole; Arlington)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. I’m curious — does the cost of Duke’s traveling set of referees come directly from NCAA tournament profits, or does Coach K merely get a tax break? (John Vernon; Clarksville)
A. Pay this wise soul, too.
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