It’s the morning of October 28th, 2004. The Red Sox have just won their first World Series in 86 years, and I’m watching the highlights from the night before on my favorite television station. ESPN has been one of the only channels that I have had any interest in watching since I was 6 years old.
I dreamed of one day being the number one play on “Sport Center’s Top 10 Plays” while having Stuart Scott scream “BOO-YAH” as I made a miraculous catch to save a game. I remember Neil Everett’s famous “BARTENDER- JACK” every time someone with the name Jack made a good play. And of course who can forget Chris Berman’s “back back back back…..GONE!!” during any type of home run highlight on Baseball Tonight.
These are the people and quotes that got me so interested in sports. Watching ESPN every day was a big reason why my life revolved around sports. It was a big reason I grew up wanting to be a sports journalist. Watching ESPN my whole life also may be the biggest reason why I’ve stopped watching it now.
When I was young, I looked up to guys like Scott Van Pelt, Stuart Scott and Neil Everett. My favorite Christmas gift when I was 10 years old was an ESPN play-by-play toy system. I remember I would set NBA 2K8 to CPU vs. CPU mode, turn the volume down and announce the games like it was the 2035 NBA Finals. This was all because of ESPN and their fun yet professional personalities.
Fast forward 10 years. I’m now in college, and still have the same love for sports. However, now I focus on other networks to find my sports information. CSN, MLB/NBA/NFL networks are the main ones I go to. This isn’t because the personalities on those shows are better. I still will turn on the midnight SportCenter addition hosted by Scott Van Pelt. The main reason I’ve shut off the world’s leading sports network is because it is simply not a sports network anymore.
All I can say is I’m glad I grew up when I did. If my ten-year-old sports-loving self turned on ESPN only to find two analysts arguing about kneeling for the anthem, or the presidents tweets, I don’t know what I would think. I wouldn’t be obsessed with sports like I am now. I would be spending more time watching Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon like most other kids. I would grow to hate sports.
The problem with ESPN today is very simple. The leading worldwide sports network barely even talks about sports. ESPN’s First Take,which airs every weekday from 10 am to noon, is one of the biggest politically driven sports shows on the network. Within the recent years, they have seemed to talk more about political opinions than actual sports opinions. Some recent ongoing arguments have included Colin Kaepernick’s protest, the NFL’s suspension policies in relation to domestic violence, NBA wearing politically driven shirts for warm-ups and even Papa John’s claiming decline in sales on the NFL.
Don’t get me wrong, a majority of these issues do need to be talked about. They do deserve recognition. However, political issues should be focused on political networks. This is the reason we have CNN, Fox News and other similar networks. Should ESPN completely ignore the issues? No, but focusing on them every single day has gone way over the top. The reason many people love sports is because it is an escape from division going on in the world. Bringing politics into ESPN, takes away what sports fans love most….SPORTS.
Monday was my favorite day to watch ESPN when I was younger. I would wake up extra early to be able to catch the full hour of SportCenter to watch all of the NFL highlights from Sunday games. I would get home from school and quickly turn on ESPN once again to watch NFL live, followed by either Around the Horn, PTI or Sportsnation. All of these shows would give their take on the best weekend games, as well as there predictions for Monday Night Football.
Monday is now one of the many reasons I’ve turned ESPN off. Instead of debate about coaching firings, quarterback changes or division favorites, ESPN has turned monday morning into a political debate. Arguments are now about if players should kneel for the anthem, if Papa John should apologize or why Ezekiel Elliot is being treated unfairly. This is followed by nightly shows where hosts (Jemelle Hill) are more worried about calling the president a racist than analyzing the upcoming game.
This article isn’t about who should or shouldn’t work at ESPN. It’s actually quite simple. All I’m asking is for ESPN to go back to the old days of being a sports broadcasting network instead of a political network, with some sports shows being thrown in.