The Disintegration of Sports Television (It's Our Fault)

Here's a question for sports fans everywhere: When did we decide we'd rather see people yell at each other about the sports and athletes we love than see highlights, analysis and real, honest-to-goodness journalism?

It's a question I've pondered for quite some time, to be honest, and it's something that was brought to the forefront with the Skip Bayless/Jalen Rose/Stephen A. Smith debacle from last week. How did we go from a fanbase that loved the long highlights, intelligent discussions and respectful discussion to consumers that can't turn away from a bunch of talking heads taking opposing views and screaming at one another, as if the loudest argument equates to the best argument?

We can blame ESPN all we want, but the truth of the matter is the "worldwide leader" wouldn't be putting this nonsense on television if we weren't watching it. That means the reduced highlights and increased talking heads are our own damn fault. We're the ones who decided we'd rather watch sports-talk radio on live television over the myriad options that we could be investing our time in instead.

Personally, I feel it's the disintegration of sports television as we know it. No longer can I turn on a sports station to get caught up on the happenings in the sports world without being bombarded with overly loud, overly obnoxious views from "expert" after "expert." Frankly, I'm fed up with it. I've never been a fan of sports-talk radio to begin with - I can have my own sports-talk conversations with my own friends. I don't need to listen to people I don't give a damn about do the debating for me. Now it has infiltrated and taken over my television, to the point where I can't even watch ESPN or any other sports network without getting annoyed, fed up and eventually changing the channel unless a live game is going on.

Sports television used to add substance, meaning and clarification to the games and athletes we follow. Its purpose was to show us the important plays, big moments and breaking news. Now it's just a bunch of grown men (and occasionally women - though not nearly as often) vying for face time by increasing their volume, caring more about how loud they say something than what it is they are actually saying.

It makes me sick. It makes a lot sports fans I know sick. And it's no one's fault but our own.

11 Replies to “The Disintegration of Sports Television (It's Our Fault)”

  1. If you want to see where it could be heading, look at MTV which used to show music videos about 20 hours a day. Now its about 1-2 hours a day. Where's the music? We may be asking "where's the sports?" in the near future.

    1. I know controversy sells ... but what's controversial about talking heads arguing on television if everyone is doing it? I really don't understand the infatuation with it. I guess people would just rather talk for a few minutes about a topic than invest the time to watch and dissect what's going on.

  2. Cost is another major factor (of course). Producing a highlight show requires someone to edit the highlights in an interesting way that tells the story of the game, someone to write copy that matches the game, people to read the copy, multiple cameras, producers, etc, etc. etc.

    Having two people come on the air and argue is much cheaper. All you need to cover are their salaries and some makeup. If you can get the same or near the same ratings for a stripped down show, you make a lot more money.

    It's the same formula for a reality show. You don't need a writing staff or expensive actors. Just have a few knuckleheads argue over nonsense.

    Like Rev. said, it's our fault. Enough of us must watch this junk to make it profitable or it would not be on the air.

    It's cracks me up on PTI when Kornheiser admits that he didn't stay up to watch the game but still gives us his two minute analysis of it. Huh?

  3. The issue is that these guys are more interested in selling themselves as an "expert" rather than analyzing what happens on the field. Just this morning, Stephen A. Smith goes on a long tirade about Ryan Clark, and how he (SAS) never said that athletes couldn't do his job (even though the clip of him saying it was played right before the rant). Just last week, Stephen A., Rob Parker, and Skip all stuck to the "today's athlete's are too sensitive" story, but whenever their journalistic integrity is called into question, they all turn into high school girls. I'm loving the fact that cats like Ryan Clark, Jalen Rose, Marcellus Wiley, etc., are pulling the curtain back on what has turned into tabloid sports television.

    1. That's exactly what's going on, these so-called "journalists" are trying to become brands. Hey, more power to you, if that's what you want to do. But don't call yourself a journalist. It's an embarrassment to the journalists that leave themselves out of the stories, which is a main tenant and credo of journalism in the first place.

  4. Unfortunately, Joe is right. This "junk" persists because it is what sells or that's what these networks want us to think.

    With so many sports channels now each is doing what it can to bring people to watch. Unfortunately that thing isn't highlights per se because you can go to so many places to get that (, NFL Network, MLB Network et. al).

    I won't write a dissertation :), but a similar debate has happened around Reality TV (Check out Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV by Jenn Pozner). Basically, what she found that is applicable here is: the idea that what these channels show is what people want is a misnomer. These channels put out content many times due to sponsorship deals (hello Sprint Halftime Show) not content based on what people want. Like is the radio, these stations are now telling us what we want and implying that there are no alternatives but there are.

    Finally, I do think that there are good debate based shows or one, lol, PTI but the genre is over saturated for sure!

  5. Sports programs, as presented today, borrow heavily from political news. Though, as pointed out by Patricky Hruby, you can't tell the difference.

    I also point you to a summary of some of the questionable programming discussed here. It leads back to a former prominent head of programming.

  6. I loved ESPNews when they had "The Hot List" and "4 Quarters". They were smart shows that let athletes have a voice, but it also knew to have some fun. I also can credit those shows for about 1/3 of the books I've read in the last decade.

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