There are just so many sporting events that can be presented live as they happen and there are myriad media outlets that adhere to the format of “All Sports … All The Time”. Recognizing the two truths above means that sports media outlets must present lots and lots of “studio programming” in between the presentation of live games. A fleeting thought went through my mind along the lines of my sitting down for a few days and watching/listening to all the programming and then commenting on it. It took me a nanosecond to figure out that I would never make it through the first few hours of such an “assignment”, so I have been tuning in sporadically and taking notes leading to today’s commentary.
On ESPN after hours of overnight SportsCenter presentations, the network begins its day of programming with Get Up!; over at FS1, the morning offering is First Things First. Get Up! got off to a rough start about 3 or 4 years ago with a blend of program hosts that just did not coalesce; I said at the time that ESPN made a serious mistake in ditching the successful Mike and Mike in the Morning program to create this vehicle for Mike Greenberg. I was wrong; once the network cleared the set of extraneous folks who rarely added much to the conversation, Get Up! became informative and often entertaining at the same time.
First Things First at FS1 has also seen cast evolution over the past couple of years. My problem with the program – – and the reason I greatly prefer Get Up! as my morning sports viewing experience – – is that I have never warmed to Nick Wright as a reporter or commentator or whatever label you prefer to put on him. There are people in this world who are “opinionated but lovable”; to me, Nick Wright is merely “opinionated.”
Once those early morning shows are out of the way, both ESPN and FS1 sink to unwatchable depths. The totally faux debate shows come on and either one can strain your credibility in the first 15 minutes of airtime. On FS1, you will quickly come to realize that Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless would find a way to disagree over the proposition that Tuesday comes after Monday. On ESPN, they present Stephen A. Smith bombastically dueling a tag team of debate opponents depending on the day of the week and time of the year. It does not take long to realize that tag team of “opponents” is only there to set up Smith’s sometimes manic presentations.
- If someone were able to sit through three consecutive days watching either of those shows in its entirety, I will tip my hat to him/her as a person with greater stamina and tolerance than I possess.
In mid-day, ESPN reverts to SportsCenter notwithstanding the fact that on just about every day of the year nothing of importance has happened since the overnight SportsCenter programs wrapped up. But over at FS1, they put Colin Cowherd on the air for 3 hours. Colin Cowherd is interesting in small doses; if you stay with the program from start to finish, you will quickly realize that a lot of the topics repeat themselves and Cowherd’s “takes” on those issues do not change from segment to segment. Having said that, The Herd is a lot more interesting that a cobbled together SportsCenter show.
However once SportsCenter wraps up again, ESPN puts Max Kellerman on the air for an hour with a program called This Just In. I have no idea why the program carries that name because it rarely involves reporting on an event that just happened, but Kellerman is worth watching because he is smart, articulate and measured in his commentary. My first inclination was to wonder why this program was only an hour in length, but I have come to believe that it is better for Kellerman to deal with a few issues a day instead of spreading him thin over a multiplicity of topics.
When Kellerman goes off the air, ESPN goes to sports-specific studio programming on “The Mother Ship” and has relegated Jalen and Jacoby to ESPN2. If I want NFL studio programming, I will find it on NFL Network; if I want NBA studio programming, I will find it on NBA TV. Jalen and Jacoby is hardly compelling TV, but I would choose it over ESPN’s afternoon offerings.
FS1 is equally unwatchable once Colin Cowherd signs off. There was a time when Speak For Yourself featured Cowherd and Jason Whitlock; that was always interesting commentary. When Cowherd was replaced by Marcellus Wiley, the program continued to be provocative and interesting. When Whitlock left and was replaced by Emmanuel Acho, I lost interest – – and going back recently to see if I might rekindle that interest resulted in no change in my opinion.
At 5:00PM Eastern Time, ESPN goes with Around the Horn and then PTI. ESPN is the better programming to start the day and it is the clear winner with its end-of-the-day programming here. I have enjoyed both programs for a long time now and the “opposition” over at FS1 – – Fox Bet Live – – would have to improve by 200% to achieve the status of LAME!
On the radio side of things, Washington DC is a wasteland. There are three sports stations here and the only one with consistently interesting fare is ESPN Radio. The other two stations carry programming that ranges from juvenile to nerdy. I have reason to hear sports radio occasionally in places like Philly, NYC and Seattle; all I can say is that fans in those cities should appreciate what they have on the air because it is far superior to what we have here in the Nation’s Capital.
I just want to make one comment about ESPN Radio’s morning program Keyshawn, JWill and Max. When this program began with Zubin Mehenti on the air instead of Max Kellerman, the show was disjointed. Keyshawn Johnson was loud and random in his comments; Zubin Mehenti came across as a “fanboy”; Jay Williams either could not get a word in edgewise or chose not to say much. I did not like the program at all.
Today, Keyshawn Johnson has grown into the role of a studio host who has opinions but who also asks questions about things where he may not be an “expert”. Jay Williams found his voice and contributes significantly to the program. Max Kellerman is a more interesting contributor that Mehenti was. This program is worth dropping in on; I would not have said that 3 years ago.
Finally, since most of today has dealt with television programming, let me close with three observations about television:
“Television – a medium. So called because it is neither rare nor well done.” Ernie Kovacs
“I must say I find television very educational. The very minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book.” Groucho Marx
“Television is now so desperately hungry for material that they’re scraping the top of the barrel.” Gore Vidal
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………