SportsCenter just doesn’t cut it

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An absolute staple of my childhood and my young adult life has been SportsCenter. The endless hours of programming has allowed me to adapt my consumption of sporting news as I have progressed through life. 

When I first developed a perceptive consciousness of professional and collegiate sports, around the turn of the century, I would tune in early on Saturday mornings. As I got older – and my appreciation for sleep became more acute – I could simply tune in at 6 p.m. after the practice of whichever sport I was playing at the time. 

By the time I entered high school, 11 p.m. was the most convenient time for me to get my sporting news of the day. And now, in college, I tune in most frequently to the 1 a.m. hour.

I can say without hesitation that there is no other television program to which I have devoted more hours. And I am certain that there are millions of sports fans around the country that would say the same. 

And that is why, perhaps, I have been meaning to get this argument off my chest for the last year: SportsCenter is an overrated and diluted sporting news program. 

There, I said it – man that feels good. 

Don’t get me wrong: I have felt this way for a while now and I have still gone back to the program that has been my rock for the last 10-plus years. But I do so with more and more resentment and trepidation each time.  Let me explain.

SportsCenter usually runs full-length episodes for one hour – in some cases 90 minutes during weekday evenings. Live episodes are run continuously from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. There is a live episode at 6 p.m., 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. On a usual weekday, then, SportsCenter will run nine live hours of content. 

Despite having nine hours to cover the entirety of the sporting world, SportsCenter rarely broadcasts substantial highlights of the previous day’s games. Instead we are subjected to Jalen Rose telling us the Miami Heat are going to win a championship because LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are good players and things of the like.

Or we are subject to segments like those done by Chris Connelly pretending to be a professor of quarterback mentoring. Seriously, go look up that clip on YouTube – it first ran April 22 –  and tell me with a straight face that you didn’t lose a little respect for Chris Connelly as a legitimate journalist. 

The majority of people that tune into SportsCenter are serious and knowledgeable fans. The last thing we want is a news program that uses the majority of its airtime for opinionated analysis that viewers can’t respond to. 

The discourse of sports is a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t translate well to television. If Doug Gottlieb or Jalen Rose – yes, I have a serious problem with Jalen Rose – or Stephen A. Smith makes a controversial point that enrages a viewer, there is no way to respond or make a counter argument. Instead viewers yell futilely at their television sets when Skip Bayless makes a colossally idiotic point.

What knowledgeable sports fans want is pure and simple: highlights. Most of us are incredibly busy and cannot devote our time to watching hours upon hours of baseball, basketball, football, hockey or what have you. It would be nice if we could turn on SportsCenter at 11 p.m. and be overwhelmed with detailed highlights that capture the truly important moments of the day’s action. 

Instead, the anchors will introduce a game and show one highlight of game action before the final score icon comes up on the screen. They then turn to an analyst who often makes overly simplistic – or even wrong – comments that go unchallenged by the anchor.

Think back to the NCAA tournament of this year. I would watch SportsCenter to get detailed highlights from incredibly important games, but instead I was shown one three-pointer or dunk being made followed by a final score box before I was whisked away to the next meaningless and unfulfilling highlight.

Besides the unsubstantial highlights, there is one huge problem I have with SportsCenter and ESPN in general: They don’t give a damn about hockey. It’s a well-established fact and it is one of the most frustrating problems that plagues ESPN. 

Last year when the Bruins and Canucks were in the midst of an epic seven game series, ESPN treated the Stanley Cup Final like a regular season baseball game between the Reds and the Astros. That may be a bit of a stretch, but SportsCenter would give far more coverage to the Heat-Mavericks finals series on an off day than they would to the Stanley Cup Final on the night of a game. How is that possible?

I searched on the web for any sort of content analysis of SportsCenter and the best thing I came across was something called “Bristolmetrics,” a quasi-content analysis of the 11 p.m. SportsCenter run by Deadspin.com.  

According to Deadspin, since January 7 the NHL has made up 3.3 percent of all SportsCenter content. Three point three percent? I am sure this number will go up in the playoffs, but only marginally. Perhaps this is the reason why so few people care about the NHL in this country.

The basic problem is that the program favors opinionated analysis and speculation over hard journalism and substantial highlights. They have nine hours to cover sports and they can’t devote more than 20 seconds to a given highlight.  

I hate to say it, but the show that I have loved for most of my childhood and adult life just doesn’t do it for me anymore.