On one hand, ESPN does show some initiative in putting together a “SportsCenter” feature that allows St. Louis Rams players Chris Long and William Hayes to pretend to be homeless for a 24-hour period for a piece called “Life on the Streets” that will air during the Sunday episodes.
Wearing second-hand clothes and makeup, the two took just $4 apiece and went out with no plan on where to sleep or eat. They are hooked up with small cameras and mikes, and are followed by an ESPN crew, as they mingle with the homeless community of St. Louis.
“It’s amazing though when that cop went to talk to me, just how unsettled that felt, compared to like if a cop normally talks to me walking down the street,” says Long, the 30-year-old son of Fox NFL studio analyst Howie Long.
On the other hand …
A “life” on the street is really more than just a 24-hour news cycle. This is more a very small window of examination. It will be a reference point for Long and Hayes.
It’s almost too easy knowing you can jump out of this experiment and go back to the comforts of an NFL lifestyle once you’re off the clock here.
What’s going to be the takeaway from this? That it’s not real fun to be “out there”? This is a new game of “Survival” to play amongst your friends?
ESPN says it’s “an effort to get a closer look at the hardships homeless people in America endure every day.” That’s pretty altruistic.
Still, the effort to learn more is far better than not caring at all. Just be realistic in what you can gain from a limited experience.
Dealing with folks who are mentally unstable is the most dangerous part of this whole experience, and it could put anyone at risk if the man or woman they are encountering feel they are being exploited here.
Perhaps when the Rams do eventually move back to L.A., Long and Hayes can take another eye-opening trip to Skid Row, meet with civic leaders and urban planners, perhaps even buy up some downtown property and turn it into homeless housing.
This is a story to be continued …
== More background on the project from ESPN’s media relations department. More on this story will be posted Sunday on ESPN.com