Column: Fox Sports vs. E(S)PN?
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 00:08
As a kid, every Saturday morning in my house began the same: with a hearty heaping of SportsCenter.
In fact, ESPN’s flagship program found its way onto my screen for so long that the mid-morning episodes would continue to loop around as I remained transfixed on the screen, watching the same highlights with the same narrative as many as three, maybe four times over.
Now, I can barely tolerate the sound of the show’s opening theme, and the patented “duh-duh-duh, dunh-dunh-dunh…This Is SportsCenter” tagline is enough to raise my blood pressure.
The magic of those lazy carefree mornings have long since passed and so too, if you ask me, has the Worldwide Leader’s heyday.
The reason? The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network has nearly abandoned the S in its acronym and focused almost solely on the E.
SportsCenter in its prime was the epitome of a highlight show, with clips of buzzer-beating shots and slap-hit singles strewn about the 60-minute show to recap every game in the past 24 hours.
These days, you’re lucky if a game-winning touchdown in a preseason game isn’t analyzed by three different “experts” and beaten to death over the course of 10 minutes before finally flipping the program back to Tim Tebow’s latest lunch rendezvous with Taylor Swift or LeBron James’ newest hangnail.
In short, SportsCenter has become a highlight show sans highlights.
Well, unless you’re the Yankees, Heat or Crimson Tide that is.
Oh, and if you’re looking for a hockey snippet, you may as well drive to Canada, flip on TSN for two or three minutes, get back in the car and head home – it’ll still be more puck action than you’ll ever find on ESPN’s airwaves.
Don’t believe it? Still a fan of the mothership? Take a look at Deadspin’s “Bristolmetrics” series.
Over the course of 2012, SportsCenter spent more time on the Top 10 than it did golf, hockey, NASCAR, soccer, the Olympics and tennis combined. In fact, the Miami Heat got more than double the airtime – 962.75 minutes – than the entirety of the NHL – 459.5 minutes.
Enter Fox Sports 1.
For years now, critics of the talking heads in Bristol have been praying for a SportsCenter alternative and a legitimate competitor to the corporation as a whole.
NBC Sports Network, save for their one-hour show “The ‘Lights” has been a grave disappointment to its early supporters – and frankly, has emerged as a niche network at the core.
But now, at long last, Fox has ponied up the cash and mustered up the courage to take on the behemoth.
And so far its featured program, Fox Sports Live, has been just about everything a diehard sports fan could have hoped for.
Fair and balanced, fast-paced and laden with statistics, Fox Sports Live has already shown more highlights of the Arizona Diamondbacks than I can remember seeing on SportsCenter in the past six months.
While ESPN spends hours on “breaking down” each NFL preseason highlight, its newest competitors are showing the same 30-second spot – but then moving on to clips of baseball pennant races, the PGA Tour and U.S. Open.
Fox Sports Live, in a nutshell, is bringing you the entirety of the Wide World of Sports while ESPN sticks to its “experts.”
Yes, Fox has thrown in its own discussion panel element to the show – much to my chagrin – but their time on the air has been limited and, for the most part, used to supplement the highlights, not stand in their place.
SportsCenter in its prime was – yes, I’ll say it – fun.
The joy and excitement that ESPN could bring viewers like 10-year-old me was in their stellar delivery of the highlights – their ability to update the audience on the entire happenings of sport with a one-hour show.
Recently, they’ve fallen out of touch with that old-school philosophy.
But mercifully – now that Fox Sports Live has hit the open air – the only time I’ll have to hear that familiar opening jingle and watch a SportsCenter package again is when Dan Patrick voices-over the play of Bobby Boucher and his SCLSU Mud Dogs.
Now that Fox Sports Live is in town, sports-news shows can be fun again.