ESPN has been a fixture of my entire life as a sports fan, from elementary school to adulthood. The “worldwide leader” has been synonymous with elite level sports coverage for longer than I’ve been alive. After the well-publicized lay-offs this week, as well as the continued chatter that ESPN is on the decline, it’s clear that the clout of the network’s empire is in serious doubt.
As painful as it was to see the farewell tweets of ESPN mainstays like Ed Werder and Jayson Stark, it hurts even more to think that the standard for sports coverage may be on it’s way out. I want to live in a world again where ESPN is killing it, and the channel I immediately flip to when I turn on the TV. The great content that the website produces (that’ll likely take a hit because of the mass lay-offs) seems to translate less and less to the TV. It’s time to make changes.
Cancel First Take and Fire Stephen A. Smith
Not too much needs to be said about Stephen A. He makes $3.5M to be an obnoxious Facebook commenter and is the face of everything wrong with ESPN. The Stephen As and Skip Bayless-types of the world need to never find their way into Bristol again if the network wants a serious revival. No one wants to pay their cable bill to watch sports takes they could get from a crazy uncle.
Shows that are centered around debate like this have a place in good sports TV. ESPN already has the GOAT with PTI. But while PTI is two respectable and seasoned sportswriters engaging in constructive debate, shows like First Take resemble a loud Facebook comment section, and thrive off outlandish hot takes as opposed to reasoned substance.
Make The “30 For 30” Channel
This one is a no-brainer. ESPN has multiple channels and clearly has some dead weight. Might as well dedicate one of those to the best thing to come out of the last decade of ESPN. The Bill Simmons brainchild “30 For 30” is just damn incredible, so why not have them running 24/7. Never again will someone have an excuse to say that there’s nothing good on TV, because there’s always a top-notch sports documentary on what used to be ESPN News.
Make SportsCenter Great Again
Someone get me a “MASA” hat. SC has been the lifeblood of ESPN for its entirety. I’ve still got fond memories of turning the show on back when it was the only place for sports highlights and can still nostalgically remember the voices and catchphrases of my favorite anchors. SportsCenter has taken a beating in the Twitter/instant highlight era, and they’ve tweaked it so much that it just seems like a shell of its former self.
If they want shows with Michael/Jemele and SVP, that’s fine, although the prime-time 6 p.m. SportsCenter needs to be the product they turn back into their stalwart. Be more than the quick highlight anyone can see on Twitter, give me more SC. Don’t cover a baseball game and show me a 2nd inning bomb and the last out, really get into the highlights. Show me every worthy play and every turning point in the game. One 20-second highlight doesn’t sum up any game, and that’s something any fan can see when browsing their timeline.
There are 24 hours of TV a day. Plenty of time to broadcast your analysts breaking things down or to have some of your talking heads debating over the day’s hot topics. Dedicate an hour show to nothing but interviews. Hell, have a show titled “Tom Rinaldi’s Stories That Will Make You Cry.”
Use SportsCenter to show me sports. Give me such a damn good breakdown that the next day I could lie to my friends that I watched the game. Let the hosts use their talents to be color analysts for minute and a half-long games; let them flourish, just like you let guys like Stuart Scott and SVP flourish back in the day.
It’s Time For ESPN 8: The Ocho
We need this. Coverage of the dodgeball championships in Vegas? Boom. Live broadcast of pro whiffleball called by Lenny Dykstra and Dennis Miller? Sure, I’m on board. Anything goes on The Ocho and it’s time for ESPN to pull out all the stops. What’s the worst that could happen?
Focus On Stories With Depth; Not What’s Trending On Twitter
Any fanboy that knows how to Google can tell you what Tim Tebow’s minor league stats are right now and how far away he is from being an actual MLB player. Same with whatever LeBron narrative everyone and their brother is pushing around for the time being. I don’t need that taking up my TV screen, as it takes up all my social media feed already.
Less trending topics, more stories that you need insider info and reporting legwork to cover. Instead of Tebow in the minors, cover the lawsuit filed for fair pay on behalf of minor league players. Put forth and in-depth story that not every casual fan is seeing on Twitter. Focus on the stories that are worthy of E:60 more than just 60 minutes a week. That’s what can make ESPN stand out in an environment where every outlet and person on Twitter is talking about the same things.
The worldwide leader should be starting its own narratives; not just making sure they’re commenting on the ones that are obvious on the surface.
Live Coverage Of Ross Bolen’s Late-Night Sports Tweets
I mean, just look at this fucking Houston sports-crazed psychopath:
ESPN needs to cover this fanatic passion every chance it gets.
If the network is going to go down, as seems to be the word on the street, they might as well go down swinging. Send your very best sluggers up to the plate, not just the contact hitters you’re hoping will work the count. .