By now, sports media nerds and super fans have been staring at this Saturday, August 17, as if the date will run away if they blink. There’s great reason for it as the latest apparent competitor to ESPN, FOX Sports 1, hits our cable and satellite boxes this weekend. Much has been said about the network’s arrival – from its idea of making sports “fun” again to the lengthy roster of on-air talent to even its effect on the channel it replaces, Speed.
It’s an exciting, if a bit ambitious, time for sports television as several cable channels will fight for eyeballs outside of actual games. No matter who screams the loudest or shows the most hated teams, these channels want to define themselves with top-notch, original programming. In the case of Fox Sports 1 – and eventually Fox Sports 2 in September – its original slate has some promise but seems to be missing something.
Any chance for a revival of “Beyond the Glory”?
For those of you who may not remember the show, a little background …
People forget that this isn’t the first time News Corp tried a national imprint, although of a different model in the early 2000s. Fox Sports Net had a handful of original national shows featured before and after its regional networks aired games. For a time in the late ’90s until 2002, Fox Sports News, renamed the National Sports Report – Chris Myers, Keith Olbermann and Kevin Frazier anchored the shows at spurts – was paired with a similar program for local markets. There was the short-lived “I, Max,” in which Max Kellerman attempted to replicate the ESPN show he originally hosted, “Around the Horn.” There was the forefather to SportsNation in The Sports List – because one time in America, people believed that duplicating a list show on VH1 was a great idea. And of course, there was the very watched, but very loathed by some, discussion show, “The Best Damn Sports Show Period.”
“Best Damn” got most of the attention because of its almost random mix of personalities, and yes, one should note that Tom Arnold lasted about as long in sports media as he did with Roseanne.
Of all the original shows Fox had, however, “Beyond the Glory” struck a chord because it told stories about some of the most headline-grabbing, tradition-challenging, brash and bold sports figures of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.
It managed to compile shows of athletes that were either still active and in some cases just hitting their prime or barely a few years from having walked away from their sports. Certainly, “Beyond the Glory” helped retell the stories of legends like Joe Frazier and Ozzie Smith to younger generation,s whose sports conscious grew long after their careers ended. Yet, the show excelled because the creators had the guts (and maybe impatience) to often not wait until a player retired to give fans and media a deeper look into who she or he is.
It set templates, if you will, for parts of or all the stories told by other networks in later years on figures like Larry Holmes, Chris Webber and the Fab Five, Kurt Warner, and even the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.
And of course, “Beyond the Glory” gave us a fantastic, Emmy-nominated, two-hour special on Mike Tyson months after the iconic boxer’s last professional win in the ring.
It’s probably tough for FS1 (and 2 later in September) to bring a documentary-style show onto a network that already has a ton of content. Outside of inheriting “The Ultimate Fighter” from FX, FS1 is understandably committing energy towards enhancing game coverage and surrounding analysis shows and the heavily anticipated Fox Sports Live.
A look at sports television may convince you that the documentary market is quite crowded. ESPN’s 30 for 30 series brings depth to stories told once before and a spotlight on those barely known. Besides the Hard Knocks and 24/7 programs, HBO Sports made its name by speaking to yesteryear in an uncensored way that no one else can. NBC Sports Network is making its dent with the “36” platform, regional channels feature their own documentaries, and even sport-specific channels like NFL Network and NBA TV give the viewers in-depth profiles diehard fans clamor for.
Yet, in many ways, “Beyond the Glory” was the father to nearly everyone’s style. A revival or a refreshed format could serve as not only the show viewers set their DVRs to on FS1, but as one that returns to boldly tells stories the competition won’t.
Jason is the editor-in-chief here at TSFJ. In addition to a past life as a research analyst in advertising, television and online media, he spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon’s beat writer for the New York Giants. Jason has written for Yardbarker, Dime Magazine, Decider, Awful Announcing and The Week. He is also a member of his high school’s 4th period gym class floor hockey champions.
He shares more of his perspectives at jasonclinkscales.com.