Thursday, September 26, 2013

ESPN - Eastern Seaboard Programming Network

          As a rabid sports fan, it only seems sensible for me to critique the network most famously known as the “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” ESPN. I decided to write about ESPN because, over the years, I have noticed many flaws about the ways they report and portray journalism. I have been watching ESPN on TV for as long as I can remember because, unfortunately, it is easily the most convenient option when I needed immediate sports highlights and/or updates. As a Wisconsin sports fan, growing up in the Chicago area, I was forced to avoid all local sports shows because I couldn't care less about the Bears, Bulls, Cubs, Blackhawks, etc. So I was stuck with ESPN. Maybe that is why I have become so critical of ESPN and their biased, repetitive coverage. Sadly, there is no other national sports network on television that comes even close to ESPN in terms of coverage (maybe the new FOX Sports 1 in the future???). And don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching ESPN and using their other services (online, magazine, games, phone apps, etc.) from time to time. It’s just unfortunate that, as the largest sports network, they cannot evenly cover the wide variety of sports the world has to offer.

          Throughout my life, I have enjoyed many aspects of ESPN but there are also many noticeable flaws with how they deliver sporting news and sporting events. I like to compare ESPN to FOX News. They both produce heavily biased and sometimes inaccurate news and then air it on TV for millions of viewers to absorb. The only difference is that people don't HAVE to commit to FOX News because there are many other resources to receive their news such as CNN, MSNBC, etc. ESPN (owned by Disney) will continue to attract the majority of sports fans because there really is no other high-quality option (yet) to give people vast sports coverage 24/7.

          ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network… Or should I say, Eastern Seaboard Programming Network?) delivers sporting news with an incredible amount of bias for large markets, particularly on the East Coast and the Los Angeles area. ESPN is headquartered in Bristol, CT which gives them a reason to give more attention to large markets on the East Coast. ESPN has also been giving much more attention to the Los Angeles area ever since they started shooting some episodes of SportsCenter in LA. Otherwise, they continue to obsessively talk about teams, regardless of their record, that have large markets on the East Coast or have gathered the most offseason attention as if it’s an episode of Entertainment Tonight. When focusing on the NFL, ESPN shows such as SportsCenter, NFL Live, and NFL Countdown will discuss pointless and dead topics like where Tim Tebow (a below-average QB famously known for being incredibly religious) is going to play next as a BACKUP QUARTERBACK or discuss for far too long about which team will win the NFC EAST (the division with currently the least talented teams) (NFL Standings). During the NBA season, SportsCenter, NBA Fastbreak, NBA Shootaround, and NBA Countdown will talk about LeBron James, LeBron James, and more LeBron James. ESPN will air games of LeBron and the Miami Heat play terrible teams that only appeal to Miami Heat fans because who else would watch them play the Charlotte Bobcats? (Heat-Bobcats Boxscore) Then on SportsCenter that night, they showed this...

...instead of my beloved Milwaukee Bucks highlights. I know, I know, the Bucks probably aren't worth it but ESPN tends to give the cold shoulder to the majority of (Midwestern) small-market teams that do not have LeBron James on their team or a Yankees logo on their jersey. Which reminds me, the bias is also seen with different sports including baseball.

          During the MLB season, TV shows on ESPN such as SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight will discuss the Yankees and Red Sox as if they're going out of style, no matter their records. And if they play each other? Be prepared to hear about it all day. Baseball fans are also constantly frustrated with how ESPN will treat the NFL offseason as if it’s a higher priority than the heart of baseball season during the summer.

(MLB Memes on Facebook)
They will also rarely talk about soccer, hockey (unless it’s the postseason), or golf and tennis unless Tiger Woods or Serena Williams did something noteworthy.

          One of the best examples of an ESPN show that has become difficult to watch due to their irrelevant and overused stories, is First Take. First Take, formerly known as Cold Pizza, has become incredibly popular over the last year ever since the boisterous Stephen A. Smith joined the panel. Now, Smith and good ole Skip Bayless will sit at a desk and argue about many different sports topics. However, their show tends to always discuss pointless “Hot Topic” stories like (you guessed it) Tim Tebow. I find the show entertaining at times but I mostly find myself sitting at the TV like...

For example, yes, this happened:

          I understand that ESPN will not always satisfy EVERY person who watches their network. But why does ESPN spend hours a day talking about stories stemming from large markets? Or beat a dead horse about “Hot Topic” stories such as anything happening in Tim Tebow’s life, daily updates on Robert Griffin III’s knee surgery, or when LeBron James will do something “silly?” Because they can. People will continue to watch. If ESPN wants to spend the majority of the day talking about the New York Jets quarterback situation, they will. They understand that talking about New York, Boston, and even Los Angeles, will satisfy the people in those cities which gives them the most viewers. Remember, this is the same network that aired an hour-long show called “The Decision” about which team LeBron James was going to play for next. ESPN also has a history with lawsuits regarding different kinds of biases including gender bias and racial bias. All this criticism isn't going to completely stop me from watching ESPN shows anymore but I do find it interesting how skewed ESPN’s perception of legitimate “sporting news” has become.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you that the Midwestern teams hardly ever get a look on ESPN. I'm a huge sports fan and, like you, have watched ESPN for most of my life because there really haven't been many other options, but they really focus on select regions of the country and select sports. I'll never forget that the 2011 NCAA women's soccer NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP was relegated to online ESPN3 while ESPN aired "Stories from 1972 SEC football" and ESPN2 aired a Professional Bowling tournament. Unreal. I wonder if the fact that few BigTen Football programs are often highlighted on ESPN has had any effect on recruiting? It seems The BigTen has been lagging a bit, and maybe it's lack of exposure to recruits may be part of the reason?


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