Opinion: ‘SportsCenter’ jumps the shark

Jody Michael

Jody Michael

Jody Michael is a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

On Sept. 7, 1979, George Grande introduced ESPN’s first episode of “SportsCenter” by promising viewers “in the coming weeks and months, we’ll be filling you in on the pulse of sporting activity, not only around the country but around the world as well.”

Notice he merely said “in the coming weeks and months,” not forever. Maybe he knew within 32 years the show would devolve into little more than a cesspool of nonsense completely irrelevant to the latest sports news.

“SportsCenter” officially hit rock bottom in the 11 a.m. hour on Jan. 12 when ESPN decided it was important to dedicate the entire hour to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

Mind you, this was not a Sunday or a Monday, when NFL games are actually happening: this was a Thursday. It had been four days since the Broncos last played a game and two days before their next. No Tebow-related news was breaking that day.

That obviously meant little to “SportsCenter,” which proceeded to air important features such as viewers’ meaningless tweets about Tebow, a full recap of the Broncos season (no other playoff team got this treatment) and a compilation of people “Tebowing.”

“SportsCenter” even mentioned Tebow three times during highlights of the previous night’s Denver Nuggets basketball game. Then came a Tim Tebow trivia segment with two ESPN personalities as the contestants. Even worse were live interviews with Tim Kurkjian, Major League Baseball analyst, and former basketball player Charles Barkley asking their opinions of “Tebowmania.”

Ultimately, “SportsCenter” said the word “Tebow” 160 times in the span of one hour. If you subtract 12 minutes of commercial breaks, that’s an average of one “Tebow” every 18 seconds for the entire program.

Any sane viewer would have hoped to see highlights from, at the very least, the previous night’s 11 NBA games, two NHL contests and six men’s college basketball match-ups with nationally-ranked teams. “SportsCenter” ignored all of these except for the Denver Nuggets game, which is mainly because Tebow is also from Denver.

Unfortunately, this idiocy is not a fluke. Eight days earlier, “SportsCenter” brought chef Emeril Lagasse in-studio so he could promote the Gulf Coast Seafood & Tourism Bash. The link to sports: New Orleans was hosting the college football championship game. The event’s sponsor: BP, whose oil spill victim fund froze that same day.

A week earlier, “The Year in Review of SportsCenter” program included a segment that remembered notable sports figures who passed away in 2011. The tribute disgustingly failed to mention the shocking plane crash that killed an entire major Russian hockey team, as well as the deaths of three active NHL players that sparked enormous concern about concussions in hockey.

The examples are limitless. ESPN has completely forgotten that what first made “SportsCenter” great: not catering to popular hype or corporate cash all the while contributing great writing and reporting.

If you want actual sports news you have only so many websites at your disposal. But continuing to watch “SportsCenter” encourages ESPN to continue this embarrassment of journalism.

Contact Jody Michael at [email protected].