The other day, I was talking to Kory Wood, the editorial page editor of The Signpost, about sports coverage in America, and I casually mentioned something that may seem weird to most sports fans: I hate ESPN.
I haven’t always hated the “worldwide leader in sports.” For much of my life, I religiously watched SportsCenter and checked ESPN’s website to stay up to date with the biggest sports stories. But a few years ago, I started seeing some things with ESPN that I didn’t like. It coincided with me transferring to Weber State University and seriously getting into journalism.
The first thing I started noticing was the fact that ESPN’s main news program, SportsCenter, has about as much journalistic credibility as (insert the main news channel opposite of your political belief). Recently a few people at CBS Sports have rallied against Andy Katz for reporting something originally broken by CBS Sports.
According to a sporting blog called Big Lead Sports, Jason McIntyre said that isn’t anything new, but that ESPN has been doing that for a while now.
“ESPN has had this problem for years,” McIntyre wrote. “Another outlet will break a story, but then ESPN will flood the zone (online, radio, TV) with the story, and quickly claim it as their own, rarely attributing the outlet that originally reported the story.”
Another problem I have with ESPN is how it seems to decide the sports people care about the most are the sports it has the rights to air. I remember when I was younger and ESPN regularly showed NHL games. Not only did it show games, it had late-night round-table shows dedicated to the sport, it had analysts on SportsCenter, and it actually gave the sport some attention.
ESPN now hasn’t had the rights to show NHL for a while, and for the most part, you’d think the sport didn’t exist, going by their coverage. According to Bristolmetrics, a page on Deadspin.com that breaks down the amount of coverage ESPN gives to different sports during its nightly episode of SportsCenter, the NHL only accounts for 1 percent of ESPN’s coverage. It’s ranked below NASCAR and other sports.
Two weeks ago, according to Bristolmetrics, the NHL received no coverage, 0 percent. That’s kind of shocking when you think about how the NHL is in its second lockout in less than 10 years. Think for a minute how much coverage the NFL got during its lockout last season, or the NBA, or the NFL referees.
I’ve read before how ESPN doesn’t give the NHL as much coverage because it feels hockey isn’t of nationwide interest. I understand that hockey isn’t the most popular sport in the country. It makes sense that it wouldn’t dominate the coverage on ESPN, but you’re telling me that ESPN feels NASCAR is of more nationwide interest than hockey? I couldn’t name two NASCAR fans if you held a gun to my head.
Another thing that really bothers me about SportsCenter’s coverage of sports is the way it seems not to take some sports seriously. If you ever see MLS or NHL highlights on SportsCenter, most of the anchors seem to read their scripts in a mocking, “I’ll mispronounce your name on purpose because soccer is dumb” tone of voice.
Even if the anchors don’t like soccer or are not interested in it, they should remember that they’re journalists, and doing schticky recaps of soccer games doesn’t do much to boost your journalistic integrity.
Finally, the last thing I’ll talk about regarding ESPN is the fact that its TV personalities seem to have their fingers in way too many pots to be a fair source of news. Last year, it was revealed that many ESPN hosts had sponsorship deals. Lee Corso, for instance, had a deal with Nike. While having a sponsorship deal with Nike likely didn’t compromise any journalistic stories Corso reported, I think most people would agree it’s shady for a journalist to have ANY sponsorship deals.
For about a year now, most of my life has been ESPN-free. I unsubscribed from its news feeds and text updates, and stopped frequenting the website. There are other news services that provide quality sporting coverage.