Has Sportscenter Jumped the Shark?
The short answer: fuck yes. The long answer is as follows:
As I leisurely turned on ESPN this morning (about 12:30 pm ET) for my standard drawn-out breakfast to avoid doing work, I was greeted by Stephen A and Skip Bayless and… Joe Fuckin Budden? discussing what else? Tim Tebow. The Holy Virgin Tim has obviously been the Pennzoil keeping this show running for the past two years so I thought nothing of it and flipped to Sportscenter. I just watched Paul Pierce turn in a classic performance last night to carry the C’s to victory and I wanted to relive it with some highlights accompanied by snappy pop-culture references. Much to my dismay however, Mein Fuhrer Roger Goodell had just decided to hand down some serious suspensions for the whole Saints bounty program ordeal. I knew this right away because Merril Hoge, Tim Hassleback, and
a juiced up Salsa instructor Jason Babin were yelling at each other about the severity of the suspensions while the always-hip John Buccigross looked bemused in the middle. This went on for fifteen minutes. The entire time, the ESPN Bottomline repeated the suspensions on a nonstop loop: Vilma out entire season, Hargrove 8 games, etc. Not a single score to be found down there. It was as if the three NBA playoff games, one NHL playoff game and slew of MLB games played the night before had never happened. Who cares about that shit when there’s offseason NFL suspensions to be discussed, right?
Common sense would dictate, this being SPORTScenter and all, not NFL Live, that the next segment on the show would take us elsewhere. Sportscenter, however, ditched common sense the second Tim Tebow was drafted and they realized they could dedicate an entire show to one fucking subject. So of course, the next segment consisted of Chris McKendry talking to some local New Orleans reporter about his take on the suspensions (as if he’d reveal some unforeseen angle that proved Roger Goodell was in league with the Illumanati and that the Saints have been using humanoid robots for the past 4 years). Desperate for some relief, I glanced to the side of the screen that shows you what’s next on the show- every fucking segment was about the suspensions! Literally, not one upcoming segment title didn’t feature the words “Saints,” “bounty,” or “suspensions.” All the while, of course, the Bottomline is stuck on an endless loop of this very same news. How many different takes on this subject could honestly be considered compelling? Do we really need every ESPN personality, local sports reporter and opinionated NFL player’s thoughts on the matter? Isn’t the endless Bottomline loop enough? WHERE ARE MY GODDAMN HIGHLIGHTS?!
So furious was I with this repeated bashing into my face of the same story, that I turned off the TV upon bagel completion and actually did schoolwork. An hour later I came downstairs and sarcastically bet my roommate 500 dollars that if he turned on Sportscenter they would be talking about the suspensions. He did, and by some miracle of God we caught 30 seconds of Paul Pierce dropping 36 and 14 on the Hawks. What was next, you ask? Saints suspensions. And every segment listed after that? Saints suspensions. You get the idea.
If this was an isolated incident, you might say I’m overreacting. But it’s not. As I stated earlier, Tebow has probably taken up 30% of Sportscenter’s air time in the past couple years. In February, it was all Linsanity, all the time. Nobody leeches onto a topic and sucks it dry like Sportscenter these days. It’s embarrassing how obvious their sensationalist journalism has become. For example, yesterday John Harbaugh made a comment on a local Baltimore radio show that cheating isn’t worth it in the NFL because whatever you accomplish will always be looked upon as “stained.” He made a passing reference to Spygate (apx. 14000 Sportscenter hours to date) and had the ESPN world up in arms. Here’s his exact quote:
“Even the thing in New England — no matter whether those things had any impact on whether they won any of their championships or not, they’ve got asterisks now. They’ve been stained. So to me, it’s never worth it.” (Yahoo)
The prevailing argument on ESPN was that he was betraying Belichick, the man who recommended him for his current job, and saying he personally believes that the Pats’ championships are tainted. The outrage was unbelievable. He specifically said “whether those things had any impact on whether they won…or not.” He didn’t say they won by cheating. He was merely pointing out that the widespread perception is that the championships are tainted, justified or not. Harbaugh later released a statement saying as much, noting that he firmly believes the Patriots earned their rings and professing his undying respect for Coach Belichick. Leave it to Sportscenter to blow it way out of proportion.
While I’m ranting against the sensationalist media monster Sportscenter has become, let’s take a second to point out my friend Grand Marqui$‘s number one problem with the show: the lack of any goddamned professionalism. He’s a little more adamant about it than I am, but it does bug me to see anchors constantly bullshitting and teasing each other as if we’re all in on the joke. Alright, Bucci, we get that you really want to fuck Sage Steele, but keep the incessant flirting off air where the rest of ESPN’s sexual harassment takes place. And Sage, don’t encourage him with those playful slaps on the arm. If I wanted weird sexual contact between my hosts I’d be watching Attack of The Show.
So what’s a sports-lovin’ American like myself to do? Well, there’s always the option to not tune in. Last week a friend told me he doesn’t watch Sportscenter anymore simply because he can’t stand it, mostly for the reasons outlined here. I was blown away by the concept of not having Sportscenter in my life, undoubtedly the show I’ve tuned into five times as much as any other since I was about nine years old. Is it really possible to live a life without Sportscenter?
“What about all the highlights you’re missing?” I asked him.
“Watch ’em online,” he replied.
Now, I watch my fair share of sports clips online, but I can’t imagine that being my main source of recaps. Too much searching, clicking, loading and all that noise. Sometimes you just need it on the TV. That’s where ESPN’s Highlight Express comes in. All highlights, no bullshit (relatively speaking). We don’t even have to worry about the anchors treating the show as their own personal catch-up time with their co-hosts because these are the young bucks trying to earn their way to the big time. Sure, they spout just as many corny one-liners as the rest of those Sportscenter folk, but isn’t it all worth it to see some actual sports and not thirty-eight different takes on an overdone story nobody gives two shits about?
The drawback here is that Highlight Express isn’t on as often as Sportscenter (and you need a lot of channels to get it). So as angry as I am with Sportscenter right now, I don’t see it leaving my life entirely. It’s kind of like that long-term girlfriend that you know sucks ass as a person, but you’ve been through too much shit to simply cut her loose. Plus we have all the same friends (I won’t force you to choose sides, PTI) and things would just get awkward. So Sportscenter, baby, I’m willing to stick it out with you. But I’m not fucking happy about it.