Bob Ley, the anchor of ESPN since its inception, announced his retirement on Wednesday.
It’s impossible to overstate Ley’s influence and importance to the network and to sports media. He’s been the voice of gravitas on the network, a decorated reporter, host and interviewer who served in a lot of ways as the network’s journalistic soul. He had been with the network forever even back when I was watching it as a kid.
His career was celebrated with near universal acclaim on sports media Twitter on Wednesday. It seemed like that cliche of “nobody having a bad word to say about him” was proven true about Ley.
The news led me to wonder something:
Where’s the next Bob Ley?
This is not a call for people to identify individuals as successors. Ley is a singular talent, and ESPN has plenty of journalists who are talented in their own right.
But it’s a thought that interests me.
Think about it: You have somebody who is so respected, so revered in how he conducts his personal life. It just strikes me as a little weird that you have a man like this and there is not the push within the industry to replicate his success.
Why has ESPN not prioritized creating an army of Bob Ley’s? Why don’t we in the sports media industry (professional and educational) prioritize teaching students to be more like Bob Ley?
Of course, there are economic incentives at play. Sports and journalism are always going to make for uneasy bedfellows. There’s money to be made at hot-take culture. For young reporters early in their career, it’s easier to get noticed, move up the chain and get paid (and pay back those student loans) if you’re louder and brasher rather than steady and professional.
But it just struck me that a man who was as professionally revered as Bob Ley retires, and he’s universally celebrated in the industry, and there’s no obvious push to replicate the very things we are all celebrating today.