ESPN should have built around the brilliant Katie Nolan. His exit is their downfall

ESPN should have built around the brilliant Katie Nolan. His exit is their downfall

OOnly Katie Nolan could take an obnoxious subject like the trolling of female sports journalists and turn it into a hilarious skit that makes your lungs hurt from laughing. Nolan’s “Secret Society of Women in Sports Media” also made me, as a woman in sports media, want to hit a wall and gave me the power to rebel against systemic misogyny. That’s the Katie Nolan effect. You feel things.

When ESPN hired Nolan in late 2017, it was a no-brainer. The very talented Nolan quickly went from being a Boston bartender doing YouTube videos in her spare time to a star so unmistakable that Fox created her own show for her, Garbage Time. The show was eventually canceled due to low ratings (aided by a less than ideal timeslot), but not until it won a Sports Emmy and earned cult status from Nolan. of the NFL for allowing Greg Hardy to return to the league. Fox knew they had a special talent, but instead of finding a new role in Nolan, they let her sit under contract for seven months before ESPN obviously stepped in.

You would think that a giant like ESPN would have a concrete plan for Nolan, especially since his contract would have been worth more than $ 1 million a year. His own show. A weekly special edition of SportsCenter or other known rating source. Anything. But instead, he offered a vague description of his new role as “a leading digital presence while also making appearances on ESPN studio programming.”

Looking back, that ambiguity already marked the beginning of the end of Nolan’s tenure at ESPN, an ending that became official on Wednesday. Nolan announced on Twitter that she was no longer with the company.

ESPN has no shortage of sports presenters and personalities known for their humor. I think of Kenny Mayne, Michelle Beadle and Dan Le Batard. But at Nolan, the network had a comedic tour de force, a motivated and talented creative genius with a proven track record of executing unique material.

Nolan is the kind of rare talent that you build yourself around, not a quarterback that you plunge into an archaic attack. But ESPN neglected to do so. Instead of adding her talents to the heart of their universe and finally having a chance to perfect that sports entertainment crossover they never quite pulled off, they experienced her on the outskirts. Without much fanfare, Nolan was tasked with hosting a version of SportsCenter for Snapchat aimed at attracting a younger audience. She also made appearances in The Batard’s Highly Questionable where she developed incredible chemistry with the host. But there was never a real leading role for Nolan at ESPN. She finally launched her podcast, Sports? and eventually had her own show, Always Late With Katie Nolan, in 2019, where she offered recognizable sketches of Nolan, like inviting fans who troll college kickers to attempt real goals on the field and read Yelp reviews. of a most angry sports stadium star.

But even Nolan’s show was digital at first before making it to ESPN2, again in a less than ideal time frame. All in all, ESPN never kissed Nolan and missed out on an opportunity they might not have for a while. Despite ESPN’s apparent mismanagement of Nolan, his popularity continued to soar and prompted a new generation of sports journalists to try their luck in the sports humor space. Still, it’s hard to think of someone offering the same blend of charisma, authenticity, and ability to get the viewer to care about the sport on a deeper level than Nolan.

Nolan follows in the footsteps of Jemele Hill, Cari Champion and Beadle as outspoken women who are no longer at ESPN. She will be fine. Well-funded media companies will be eager to recruit her: The Ringer and Le Batard’s Meadowlark Media are obvious candidates. Wherever Nolan lands, let’s hope that unlike ESPN, she will be offered a platform worthy of her talents.


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