Friday, February 10, 2006

Anti-ESPN: Part 1

Poor quality
Part 1 in a Series....
Sportscenter. We have all seen it. Its on every weekday from 6am-noon. Also, it is on at 6pm and again at 11pm. On average I would say that ESPN shows Sportscenter 8-10 hours out of everyday. It is the show that the station has become synonomous with. So why has it declined considerably in quality over the last decade? What are the issues preventing the show from returning to its golden years, considered by me to be the mid-to-late 90's. That is what I intend to find out, first by laying down what isn't working now, what did work back then, and what I think needs to happen to make ESPN's Sportscenter what it should be.
Since this is an intro, I want to start back in the 90's when I felt the show was good. In the early days of sportscasting, announcers did most of the talking, as there weren't any highlight shows on at night. Most people don't remember, but before Sportscenter used to come on in the morning, they showed a regular news program. World wide leader in sports, but showing the news like its CNN. That was tolerable though; you don't have to watch shows that you don't like (or that offend you, or make you angry, or insult you...for all you fuckers out there who bitch about the content on t.v.). Even in the early days after they did in the news program, Sportscenter only had a few anchors, and they all played it straight, reporting sports and thats all. Then came Craig Kilborn, Charley Steiner, Keith Olbermann, and all of a sudden sports anchors had names. People started looking forward to the funny things that Kilborn said along with the highlights. He spiced things up; he made it better, but he never took away from the highlights.
As time went on, Sportscenter continued to grow, easily becoming the top place to find highlights and news on sports. Highlight packages were allowed room to breathe, and it showed by illustrating a full game in about two minutes. In two minutes you can get alot of highlights in, but you can also feel the flow of the game, and observe key turning points. Back then, if Ken Griffey, Jr. went 4-4, you saw all his at bats. Back then, the Bulls highlights were packed full to the brim with Jordan and the rest of the guys. But then something happened. Around the turn of the century, ESPN believed its own hype. They started making changes to the show, adding in segments and cutting into highlight time. Even that was acceptable, to an extent. Now the show has evolved, or devolved as is the case here, into an unentertaining collection of analysts opinions and minimal highlights.
I will use the example of the weekend of the AFC and NFC Championship games. Normally the Sportscenter following a weekend of football starts off with football. This was a different Monday, as Kobe Bryant had scored 81 points the night before(which is no small feat, don't get me wrong). So they started the show with Kobe, and showed most of his shots, especially in the 4th quarter. Fine. Then they showed interviews with Kobe, Phil Jackson, and a few others after the game. Good, we get the point. Let's move on....but wait! Bill Walton announced the game, lets get his opinion. Let's see what Greg Anthony has to say! Then he can kick it over to Tim Legler, who will put in his similar but slightly different two cents. After that, Steven A. Smith will give his take on what happened....Why the fuck would I care what these guys have to say? One of them, maybe, but all three? Finally a commercial. When they come back, we get Steelers highlights and Seakhawks highlights...about a minute apiece. Then, instead of something new or more highlights of the game, Scott Van fucking Pelt sends it out to Stuart Scott, who is sitting at a table with Chris Berman, Michael Irvin, Steve Young, Ron Jaworski, Sean Salsibury, Tom Jackson, Merill Hodge, and my all-time (non)favorite, Mark Schlereth. Every guy has his turn giving his opinion of the game. Individually. Somebody fuckin kill me.
It is of note that, with the exception of Irvin and Young, ESPN employs Has-Beens and Never-Were's to break down football film. Anyway, by the time they got through Kobe and the football games, we are almost 30 minutes into the show. Knowing Sportscenter, I realize there are two more segments that will eat up another 15 minutes of the show. First we get Chris Berman's Top 10, which goes 5 and 5 with a commercial break, and provides the most brutal moments of the already gruesome show. Apparently Berman can't keep it together for a full 10; he needs a commercial break to catch his breath and mned the suit jacket he just ripped up the back. His typical Top 10 of his consists of a squirell skiing, a highschool basketball buzzer beater, five football highlights, a mouse in a Big Wheels, an obituary and last nite's lottery numbers. This guy is a fuckin' egomaniac who should have the mic wrapped around his neck. Also, if you plan on giving someone a Top 10 on a sports program, how bout making it entirely about sports? Its only 10!!
Then there is the Ultimate Highlight, as its called. Never has the word 'ultimate' been so abused or misused. I heard a rumor that the guy who edits this is forced to drink two Red Bulls and a sixer of Jolt cola as he edits. I tried to induce a seisure during it one time, but that still didn't help. Neither did the morphine drip. I'm sorry, I need Tivo to even identify what is going on. And who came up with the idea for showing the weekly highlights with that 'twiiins' song from the Coors Light commercial playing over it with different words?
Ladies and gentleman, let me introduce you to the new Sportscenter. A cross-promotional waste land of epic proportions. A place where all sports meet, and none come out alive. A magical place where players with no talent go to share their unsolicited opinions, and sports anchors try to be something they are not. Not everyone on Earth is funny, and yes I'm looking at you Stuart Scott you fucking piece of shi.....sorry I almost got through without doing that. So this is basically where i am coming from as far as ESPN goes. Next week, I will move on to the anchors. Not the analysts, the anchors. The men who guide the show towards disaster and make me long for the days of visiting Craig Kilborn's bird sanctuary.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an avid sports fan and could relate to the writer when he says everyone has to put his two cents in. Why the F do I care what fifteen different people have to say about the same topic!

1:03 PM  

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