ESPN: Bring back these guys too

Posted: August 29, 2013 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

ESPN doesn’t need to take programming advice from me. Even when an entire network is created to compete with the network, the ratings show that folks still tune in to what ESPN has to offer, no matter how often it  gets criticized. Variety reported that upstart Fox Sports 1 averaged 161,000 viewers in its opening week. ESPN got 2.17 million.

Still, if ESPN ever brings back the atrocity that was Dream Job, but this time offers the winner the opportunity to program the network, I have some ideas, all of them inspired by Keith Olbermann’s shocking return. If Olbermann — the napalmer of bridges — can come back and get a nice spot in Times Square every night, then why not these shows or broadcasters? Give us what we want, ESPN. Old shows and personalities for a new era. (Sorry, Australian Rules Football still doesn’t make it).

Roy Firestone still travels doing impressions, but his days as a daily interviewer on ESPN ended a decade ago. I really enjoyed Up Close in the ’80s but it went downhill after Firestone stopped hosting. Also, based on Jerry Maguire, he might have become something of a caricature with people expecting him to get guests to cry. But for many years the interviews were always enjoyable and occasionally confounding. This entire Byron Scott interview has some interesting moments, including the Lakers’ guard annoyance with teammate Mychal Thompson. Then it ends with a Stevie Wonder impression.

Steve Sabol’s baby, played throughout the year but especially in the week before the Super Bowl when ESPN ran a marathon, which included the inevitable Hank Stram Game and Old Man Willie returning an interception for a touchdown against the Vikes. The last one John Facenda narrated was the 1984 Super Bowl between the Raiders and Redskins.

The most earnest show on TV, even though Mickey was probably doing unspeakable things in the hours leading up to filming and later in the evening. Humble Harmon. This show always played on ESPN later in the afternoon and I’d catch it after school, following along as if it was 1960 again.

The favorite show of out-of-shape ladies and teenage boys.

Long before he dealt with hungover college students holding clever signs insulting Lee Corso on Saturday mornings, Chris Fowler hosted the superb Scholastic Sports America, though the show survived for several years after his departure with various hosts. Countless kids who were big high school names eventually became big names in the pros, from Emmitt Smith to Alonzo Mourning. I never made it.

1980s highlight shows could be hit or miss. Often, unless it was the NFL being documented by NFL Films, there could be precious few actual action highlights. Instead you’d get slow-motion replays of a few plays and dozens of crowd shots. These Final Four recaps had the slow-motion down but also showed quite a bit of action, including Guy Lewis throwing a towel at an opposing player.

A little derby action and then updates on some scores. “We’ve got wrestling up next but first the baseball scoreboard,” was actually said by a SportsCenter anchor, the 1980s equivalent of “We’ve got Skip and Stephen A. coming up next but first the baseball scoreboard.”

Before the Schwab, and before ESPN laid the Schwab off in one of the network’s crueler cost-cutting moves, there was Boardwalk and Baseball’s Super Bowl of Sports Trivia, which could have been a huge hit if not for the awkward title. Berman hosted. According to Wikipedia, Washington State won the crown in 1988. But then, you knew that.

So much of ESPN’s programming looks the same today — SportsCenter on hour after hour hour, guys debating each other, something involving the NFL. It was a much weirder network for its first 15-20 years of existence. Probably less professional, even with the solid production values on matches involving Sgt. Slaughter. Still, these shows shouldn’t just have to live on YouTube. We could always use a little roller derby.

  1. Mike says:

    I loved Homerun Derby!

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