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This has always been the fundamental conflict for ESPN, for broadcast networks, for content Websites, for any media company who ever does anything.How do you balance catering toward your core customers -- the people who will watch your programming or read your Website or download your podcast -- with trying to bring in new, otherwise disinterested people without irritating the first group so much that they no longer trust your product?The only solace this Illini fan can find is that there's no way it can be any more dispiriting than actually watching Illinois basketball this season.Now, there's nothing crankier than a sports fan having to deal with change, and when successful broadcast innovations like the first-down line or the huddle camera were introduced, we all spent time grousing about them too before we got accustomed and, ultimately, embraced them. But those new technologies were built to enhance the game, rather than distract from them.Ruthless and merciless lovers ready to exhaust wet bitches to death, as much as they prayed and asked for no mercy.Some sincerely express their emotions and live like the last time, some are fucking in hardcore as they gonna die right now.They brought as closer, showed us something we hadn't seen, gave us an insight we otherwise wouldn't have had, seamlessly integrated into the game itself.
ESPN has had its issues of late -- cord-cutters slicing from its bottom line, out-of-control rights fees, nervous stockholders -- but it is still one of the most powerful entertainment conglomerates on the planet, with its tentacles in every aspect of the sports fan experience. And last week, the biggest, most-watched, all-encompassing sports network in the history of human kind focused all its powers, on its mothership station, on an extreme closeup of a middle-aged man's buttocks.There's a variety of reasons for this, from quality of play to football's supremacy to lack of continuity among rosters to general cynicism of just how corrupt the whole enterprise is, but that the game has fallen off its peak is undeniable for anyone paying attention (or, for that matter, looking at Web traffic numbers, though television ratings are a little more cloudy).In many circles, the one-and-done-rule has turned mainstream attention on college basketball into something solely about NBA Draft scouting, which is why whole blocks of programming are devoted to LSU's Ben Simmons even though his team is 16-12 and unlikely to reach the NCAA Tournament.ESPN has become so essential for sports fans they have saturated the market: If you don't ever watch ESPN, you must not like sports.So, in order to grow as a company -- the founding principle of the American economy being that you must always be growing, of course -- they must cater to more casual fans.