by John Furgele
ESPN continues to take over the sports world. Yesterday, ESPN had coverage of the opening of the 2009-2010 English Premier League Soccer season. And while it’s true that Fox Soccer Channel also will carry games this year, it won’t be long before ESPN throws enough money at the EPL and becomes the exclusive United States home for arguably the most exciting club soccer in the world. If ESPN really wants something, they will get it, leaving the crumbs for the other networks. If you need to know more, just wait for the United States Open tennis tournament. For decades, USA Network was the place to be. They would come on at 11 AM for the afternoon matches, then at 7 PM for the prime time matches. But not anymore. ESPN has wrested the US Open away and while they do do a good job, USA Network now will have to settle for Monk reruns.
ESPN also feels that they have to show the Little League World Series ad nauseum. Once again, this is ESPN at its worst. I won’t bore you with how their coverage exploits young kids because it really doesn’t, but why does ESPN have to do this? Why do they have to put Little League baseball games on television? And, why so many?
It used to be fun when you read about the games and then tuned into ABC for the Saturday, 3:30 PM final, but now ESPN has made us immune by showing all the games. Once again, why? The games, first and foremost, are not that great, not that exciting and not that appealing. Why they have to show regionals, and play from Williamsport on a daily basis is just plain sad. And, I don’t really care if the 12 year old blows his elbow out and never pitches again. It’s not that impotant, because the reality is that none of these kids will ever make the majors anyways and so what if the kid’s elbow prevents him from playing baseball in the future? At age 11 or 12, he has his life to look forward to and chances are he’ll be working and jogging three tmes per week to keep the gut down. That’s reality and one would love to see ESPN say that during the overexposure of what was once a sign of innocence.
The only area where ESPN took a hit is the National Football League. Of course, the one entity bigger than ESPN is the NFL. Maybe the NFL was sick of Chris Berman with his over the top style, or maybe they wanted to put money somewhere else, but ESPN got Monday Night Football, and although football is football, MNF is the second rate package. The games look good on paper now, but if the Philly-Dallas week 13 matchup is between two 5-7 teams, ESPN is stuck with it, unlike NBC, which gets flexible scheduling on its Sunday Night package, which suits the league and the network, but certainly not the fans, who may have to adjust plans in a very short time period, but we know that as long as the seats are filled, nobody really cares about the needs of fans.
ESPN, the network which once showed Davis Cup, CFL football and Aussie Rules football, now has pirated Little League Baseball, the English Premier League, US Open tennis,and anything else it wants. I would not be surprised to see the network get the NHL back someday, not because they want it, but because they want to tell Versus that it has no place in sports, because ESPN is the ruler of the fiefdom.