Turn your television to ESPN during a college football weekend and you will see the symptoms of the disease plaguing the cable network. The once-proud leader in television sports reporting has fallen, and hard.
It’s become a chore to sit through SportsCenter, between the almost creepy obsession with New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow and the love affair with SEC college football.
Originally intended by Bill and Scott Rasmussen as an outlet for Connecticut sports, such as the then-Hartford Whalers, the network has exploded internationally. The network broadcasts 65 sports, 24 hours a day in 16 languages to more than 200 countries.
Unfortunately, recent years have seen it turn more into TMZ.
Yes, a fair number of criticisms have been lobbed at both the network’s coverage and their on-air personalities since it’s inception, but the issues have only seemed to have picked up steam since 2010.
If you don’t remember, July 8, 2010, was when NBA superstar LeBron James was given an hour of air time simply to announce his decision to leave Cleveland for Miami. ESPN gave up their advertising rights for the ‘special’ and also their ability to control the questioning during the interview with Jim Gray, who was hired by James’ marketing company and had no affiliation with the network.
ESPN was, correctly, criticized for that decision as mind-boggling violations of the journalistic ethics they claimed to still uphold.
ESPN has a sports reporting monopoly and that only hurts sports fans. A new network is needed, though, at present, no strong challenger has presented itself.
The NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB all have their own 24-hour cable networks, though those are dedicated solely to their own sports. What is needed is a competing, encompassing network.
NBC is trying to get something started with their NBCSN venture from what used to be the Versus network, but that is sorely limited due to it’s availability as a digitial cable network only and the lack of high-profile sports to cover. Especially considering the on-going labor dispute within the National Hockey League.
But, hey, if you’re looking for the Canadian Football League, NBCSN is your place.
Fox has also been making some noise this season, what with their increased coverage of college football, both on cable’s FX network and on the main Fox channel, itself. Add in their coverage of the NFL and Major League Baseball, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine a 24-hour Fox Sports Network to rival that of ESPN.
In the meantime, though, sports fans have another season of Dick Vitale.