April 29th, 2013 will be remembered as an important day in American pro sports as Jason Collins came out in a Sports Illustrated exclusive as the first active gay athlete in the four major sports.
It will not be remembered as the day the New York Jets replaced Tim Tebow or the day after the 8th seeded Los Angeles Lakers were swept from the NBA Playoffs.
And yet, if you watched ESPN in the minutes and hours after the Collins story was published, you would have thought the reverse was true. It took SportsCenter 45 minutes after the news hit at 11 AM ET until Chris McKendry broke into a "live" episode of Tebow/LakersCenter with a thoughtful interview with LZ Granderson on the Collins story at 11:45 AM. The 12 PM ET SportsCenter had another McKendry interview with SI's Jon Wertheim and statements and reaction from around the NBA, but that was sandwiched between in-depth Tebow and Lakers coverage, which dominated ESPN airwaves. Tebow's release led that episode of SportsCenter, and each live edition that preceded it Monday morning.
In fact, Tim Tebow's name was mentioned 25 times on the 12 PM ET SportsCenter before Jason Collins. Mark Sanchez was mentioned 10 times before Collins' name was. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard both garnered 14 mentions before the Collins story was acknowledged at 12:17 PM ET.
The network needed to deliver more perspective and should have listened to their most respected journalist and anchor, Bob Ley.
Unintended but blessed consequence of Jason Collins’ courageous statement… Muting the Tebowmania.
— Bob Ley (@BobLeyESPN) April 29, 2013
Ley's tweet was retweeted by fellow ESPNers like Bill Simmons, Brett McMurphy, and Jemele Hill. During the Monday of the Boston Marathon bombings, ESPN showed a remarkable ability to adapt to breaking news and deliver a meaningful, insightful, legitimate news telecast. It was anchored adeptly by Bob Ley and Jeremy Schapp. That adaptability to reflect stories that truly matter was missing today. Instead, Collins' announcement was overshadowed by the set narratives. At ESPN it was clear what the most important story of the day was on Monday morning April 29th, 2013. As of 1:15, Tebow's release was still the #1 headline on ESPN.com.
This picture via John Koblin's Twitter page, represents the real-time trends of Jason Collins and Tim Tebow, which paints a different picture of which is the top sports story at the moment...