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Attention, Sick Kids: ESPN Wants To Once Again Exploit Your Illnesses For Ratings

Far be it from me to be overly-cynical, but the news that ESPN will for the fifth straight year will help orchestrate helping bring about sick children’s sports-related Make-A-Wish requests with the rolling out of the wildly-popular “My Wish” series on SportsCenter leaves me a bit skeptical.

You know the routine: Scott Van Pelt or John Buccigross or whichever SportsCenter anchor drew the shortest straw will set aside their played-out shtick for a moment, act solemnly as they introduce a profile of some poor little kid who is dying and make its viewers feel like crap that they are watching ESPN flagship program instead of doing something productive with your life. It truly is heartbreaking and makes for great television. And you got Chris Connelly narrating the bastards, so the melodrama is turned up to 11, not that these stories need any embellishing. These poor children go through more crap and suffer worse in one week than many of us will in our lifetimes. But hey, look! Here are some wonderful professional athletes who have taken time out of their busy schedules to make a sick child’s life a bit brighter, if only for a moment. It really tugs at the heartstrings and my sensitive emotions are not something to be manipulated and trifled with, ESPN.

From the ESPN press release:

For the fifth straight year, ESPN will present its critically acclaimed SportsCenter’s “My Wish” series, which chronicles sports-themed wishes granted to children with life-threatening medical conditions in collaboration with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Stephanie Druley, senior coordinating producer, ESPN, and David Williams, Make-A-Wish Foundation of America president & chief executive officer, announced today that the series will air Sunday, July 18, through Thursday, July 22.

This year’s series will bring the total of original SportsCenter “My Wish” episodes to 30 since 2006. This season, ESPN will help the Make-A-Wish Foundation, one of the world’s leading children’s charities, grant to five children wishes involving leading sports figures. Each wish will be the subject of one SportsCenter feature segment.

Similar to previous years, the SportsCenter segment will feature the story behind the wish, interviews with the youngsters and their families and a behind-the-scenes look at the wish fulfilled, including the interaction between each child and his or her favorite athlete. Emmy Award-winning reporter Chris Connelly will again host. This year’s participating wish-granters are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Albert Pujols, LaDainian Tomlinson, the Oakland Raiders and one other to be announced. (Editor’s note: additional details of the participating athletes and wish kids will be announced closer to air date.)

And yes, behind this gruff, masculine and musclebound exterior, I do have feelings. And no, I don’t cry when I watch these: I sob like a little girl. Shame on you, ESPN, for making me have to act like I’m yawning and that my eyes itch while I watch these heartbreaking stories lest I do not maintain the manly, carefully-crafted image I have constructed for myself. Next thing you know, someone will trick me into suffering and weeping my way through The Notebook again. Worst. Bachelor. Party. Ever.

SportsCenter ‘My Wish’ Series Returns for Fifth Year, July 18-22 [ESPN Media Zone]