Thursday, October 12, 2006

SPORTS: ESPN = Endless Self Promotion Network

I haven't been on this earth for that long. My hair line and disgustingly large capacity for knowledge might suggest otherwise, but I'm still just a kid. But of all my experiences in sports, and life in general, nothing makes me more nauseous than the downward spiral ESPN has taken in the past two years. I'm fully convinced that everything ESPN does is blatantly self-serving, and its recent synergy with ABC Sports has only pressed the fast forward button on the VCR of Atrocity. Let's just take a look at some recent developments:

SportsCenter: When I was a kid (a little contradictory to what I just said about still being one), SportsCenter was half as long as twice as informative than it currently is. There wasn't a single Six Pack of Cold Hard anything, and there was no creation of Top 10 lists for the sole purpose of promoting a Walt Disney recording artist. Sure, we saw a Toyota ad or two, but we also didn't have a big obnoxious truck graphic come flying across the screen every 15 minutes. Advertisements, gimmicks and shameless plugs make up 75% of the show now, and we're lucky to get the score of a game we wanted to see.

What SportsCenter has become now is an entire brand name of its own. An out of control brand of its own, I might add. But I guess the question for not just SportsCenter but ESPN as a whole, is where is the alternative? Sure, we can follow our hometown teams and a little more with Fox Sports, Comcast and other regional outlets, but those channels all have significantly lower budgets, less on-air talent and 10% of the programming that ESPN does. This monster has grabbed a huge chunk of the market share across the entire nation, and the only hope is that it drives itself into the ground in due time. History can prove the cyclical nature of power, and I think I see the downswing coming soon.

Baseball Tonight: To me, ESPN gets no better than its sport-specific shows -- that is until dollar signs start flashing in the producers' heads. An hour of Baseball Tonight is informative, entertaining and a semi-educational way to spend 60 minutes of your time. Give me 30 or 60 minutes of BT, and I'm good, but when you combine it with Outside the Lines and NFL Tonight and make each show 20 minutes, then it's just ridiculous. It was affectionately known as The Trifecta, which could easily be replaced by a graphic that says "The Tigers won tonight; Maurice Clarett is crazy, and Chris Simms lost all of his vital organs in one game."

I think it's fair to say that any television broadcast is 2/3 content to 1/3 commercial, meaning that there is roughly 13-15 minutes of a TV show on The Trifecta! I realize that as years go on, our society's attention span becomes shorter and shorter, but I like to think we have a higher tolerance than 780 seconds of sports information.

NFL PrimeTime: I used to be able to say I liked NFL Primetime until it became a forum for Tom Jackson, Michael Irvin and Mike Ditka to give incredibly opinionated thoughts and not listen to what any of their colleagues have to say. Last year, the show was roughly 6 minutes of football, 25 minutes of commercials and 29 minutes of the entire panel laughing uncontrollably. Annoying, sure, but it was in good fun. Now, it's just as annoying, but is also becoming spiteful and hard to watch.

Stuart Scott: Is this guy serious? During the Dream Job series, I once heard him called "fearless" for the approach he takes to broadcasting. If that's the case, I wish Stu Pot was piss-your-pants scared at all times. I want to say that he's a "love him or hate him" case, but everyone I've ever seemed to talk to is on the 'hate' end of the spectrum. If you were one of the unlucky viewers who saw Stuart Scott do freestyle poetry on SportsCenter last year, his fate should already be sealed in your eyes.

Monday Night Football: The development of one of the nation's most popular television events - sports or otherwise - has been a pretty interesting journey in recent years. We all know that the Dennis Miller experiment went horribly wrong, but is it possible that the Tony Kornheiser experiment could go down in history as being worse?? Right off the bat, the first thing you see when the broadcast begins are two presentable, professional broadcasters in Mike Tirico and Joe Theismann, and sandwiched between them is Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. Only his 'precious' is bad jokes, no football knowledge and a notepad full of quotes from coaches and players that represent his only contributions to the broadcast. He does a nice job getting under Theismann's skin, which I do enjoy a little, but when he does, the conversation always ends the same way:

TK: All of this pressure up the middle has to bother a quarterback, right Joe?
JT: Well Tony, I see your point and do agree, but out of spite, I'm going to disagree.

15 minutes later ...
JT: Getting back to our quarterback conversation from earlier ...

Joe, the conversation is over. Please don't bring up first quarter comments with 6 minutes to go in the game just to prove that you know football and can get the final word in any discussion.

The best part of the broadcast, and I've seen at least parts of each of them so far, is the general dislike that both Tirico and Theismann have for Kornheiser. The worst part of the broadcast is a tie between guest appearances by ABC sitcom celebrities and the ridiculous song and big-headed graphic of Kornheiser when a fan has an email question for him. Last week's special appearance was a DUDE from Desperate Housewives, by the way. Thanks for the treat.

Miscellaneous: Kirk Herbstreit desperately wants to be liked by everyone; Lee Corso looks just like Mel Brooks; I once saw Chris Fowler complain like an 8-year old girl when he couldn't get his lines right; Harold Reynolds should still have a job there, but then again I'm an insensitive scumbag who believes that any form of harassment should go in the workplace; if fans and viewers thought as highly of Scot Van Pelt as he does of himself, he'd be the next leader of the free world; I didn't feel the need to mention ESPN Mobile in this blog because I can't say anything that the performance of this product doesn't say for itself; I guess you can't fault ESPN for this evolution of self-promotional sports coverage, it's the nature of this or any business to keep wanting more; my appreciation of Kenny Mayne doesn't make up for how awkward he is in those Progressive Insurance commercials; speaking of insurance commercials and sports, I love Pedro Cerrano in the State Farm commercials; oddly enough, the race for the role of company spokesman came down to him and Joe Boo, and as pitcher Eddie Harris once put it, it was "Up your butt Joe Boo" again.


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