What do we want from our sports coverage?


As we all know, this week has been a rough one for ESPN on-air talent. A lot of the people who we saw, get laid-off in real time via Twitter (which was weird watching people announce they had been let go) and the reaction from people got me to thinking. What do we want from our sports coverage? Do we, as sports fans, want the old school “Just the facts ma’am.” Or do we want people showing their personalities, which means their political views, opinions, and cultural norms.

If you look at the lay-offs, ESPN is betting that the viewing public wants more opinions and political beliefs being upfront in their coverage. ESPN fired writers (I call them writers and not reporters because I don’t think covering sports makes you a reporter which is a whole other blog post) like Andy Katz, Ed Werder, Marc Stein, and Scott Burnside. If you take a look at those who were laid off you see that these names are people who are on the beat everyday.

Those are the people who do all of the dirty work cultivating sources, and reporting without shooting off at the mouth. Unlike the people that ESPN decided to keep. ESPN has seemed to have gone all in on the “embrace debate” format just like Fox Sports.

ESPN, to it’s credit, started the debate show in the sports realm. The first show they produced was The Sports Reporters, however the people who they had on that panel were columnists and not “reporters.” ESPN then brought in Pardon the Interruption over 15 years ago.

Now, as a full disclosure, PTI is the only show that I religiously watch. I love that show, I like Wilbon and Kornheiser, but the show is based on debate and 2 guys yelling at each other. ESPN laid off all of these writers, however kept Stephen A. Smith. Smith is a guy who gets paid to be the biggest, loudest voice in the room. ESPN laid off all of these writers but tried really hard, according to Richard Deitsch and Awful Announcing, to keep Skip Bayless.

With these moves, it just proves that John Skipper (head of ESPN) has decided to follow the Jamie Horowitz (head of FS1) model and put people on air who just spew their opinion and got rid of all of the guys who were in the locker rooms getting the information and presenting facts and not opinions.

What we as consumers should want and use sports for is an escape from the divided political landscape that we find ourselves in. However, when Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, Dan Le Batard, all have shows we consumers have one of two choices. Either we stop watching sports shows all together, or we stop watching the shows that keep showing people who “embrace debate.”

Like I said, the only show I watch on ESPN is PTI. However, even that show is becoming harder and harder to watch. PTI has become the show of the NBA is the best thing EVER and can do no wrong, and the NFL is terrible and can’t get anything right. Personally, I HATE the NBA and stopped watching a long time ago, and I LOVE the NFL and watch it religiously every Sunday. So, for even the most die-hard PTI fan it is becoming difficult to watch.

I will keep ESPN for the live sporting events, college football. college basketball, and some NFL. However, I am straying away from their other programming and it’ll take a lot to get me back. I hope I’m not in the minority, wanting facts and not opinions, but from those firings from this week, looks like I am not the target audience, and that is depressing……..

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