Earlier this week, Kent State starting center Jason Bitsko was found dead in his bedroom. The 21-year-old passed away from “undetermined medical issues” before the start of his senior year, earning an award earlier this year for “exemplifying hard work and dedication.” It’s a brutal blow to the program and the entire Kent State community. The Golden Flashes will wear No. 54 on its helmets during the 2014 season to honor Bitsko.
Unless you live in Ohio or follow the marginalia of college football, you probably didn’t hear about Bitsko’s death because the biggest sports news channels and aggregators on the planet (i.e. ESPN) didn’t cover it. Instead, we were busy yammering about Johnny Manziel and starting quarterback situation in Cleveland. The storylines for the football season are set and, sadly, the life of a stand-up athlete like Jason Bitsko largely goes unnoticed to Braxton Miller or Johnny Football’s immature antics.
That shame is on all of us, both media producers and a passive audience of media consumers for not demanding better.
Yesterday ESPN SportsCenter anchor Neil Everett gave a nice tribute to Bitsko on the air while working in a not-so-subtle dig at ESPN’s own bullshit for over-covering the start of Manziel’s NFL career since, like…. last freakin’ year. It’s a moment produced by ESPN addressing one of the biggest criticisms about ESPN; That the network relentlessly overplays the same old storylines ad nauseam for ratings (i.e.: Tebow… LeBron… Manziel) without addressing things going on elsewhere in sports.
The World Wide Leader is self-aware. How meta of you, Bristol.