Being a fan’s a funny thing – you idolize certain players on your team, riding with them on their ups and turning critical on their downs. It’s tempting as a commentator on anything – sports, literature, movies, etc – to stand above all of it as the judge, the arbiter and critic, and SportsCenter does a good bit of that. But the critical attitude of standing above is opposed to the loving attitude of standing below, looking up. And the most charming parts of ESPN are not when they’re rating the five best closers in the NL East, but when they’re basking in the simple glow of fandom. Example below:

It’s not just admitting the awe the feel in front of the players it’s their job to do commentary on, but some of the humor lies in making themselves look dumb too – with a kind of immature, childlike glee at the unpredictability of the athletes. Other times, it might be empathizing with the players on major problems they’re facing – things ESPN might judge during SportsCenter proper, but in some way make more everyday, establish a level playing field (!) with during their commercials (my favorite):

And sometimes, too, even though the media traditionally stands in the judge’s seat, there’s some acknowledgement of them wanting to be ‘cool’ in front of players, or still feeling the importance of the players’ (or mascots’) opinions.

Or for the Demon Deacons,

(The mascot’s head was inexplicably designed without ears. There’s a slight satire of religion here, but more so a simultaneous satire of the anchors themselves.) Part of the humor, of course, is just the players being in an everyday setting, and part is the announcers pretending to take themselves more seriously than they do; that is, admitting they want to pretend their struggles/triumphs are on par with the players’. Imitation is flattery, they say, and the announcers’ imitation makes them look ridiculous:

Most of this is just good humor and YouTube diversion, but there’s a (small) takeaway, maybe. St. Augustine said that “This is how we should love God, not this or that good but good itself, and we should seek the good of the soul, not the good it can hover over in judgment but the good it can cleave to in love. (DT VII.2)” In any position of authority, like the announcers, there’s the potential to ‘hover over’, pronouncing on the talent of one player over another (RGIII or Andrew Luck?), or the praise/blame-worthiness of Lance Armstrong, the MLB steroid situation – but the humor of these commercials (and the enjoyment) comes from a basic ‘cleaving to in love’, a sense of wonder mingled with self-satire, taking oneself just seriously enough to love something outside of yourself with childlike awe – and not a bit more.