A popular game among sports bloggers is to rip ESPN. While I've had my problems with elements of the world-wide leader, I have given props to the things the network does very well.
The network presents college football beautifully, as Chris Fowler is the best pre-game show host in sports. Most of their annoiuncers in the sport are top-notch.
College basketball is done almost as well at ESPN.
The ascension of Ron Jaworski has really helped the Monday Night Football telecasts, though I'm still not sure what Tony Kornheiser brings to the festivities.
And while we can all agree that Baseball Tonight is pretty awful, when the network has Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and (yes) Steve Phillips in the booth together, ESPN has the best TV crew working the sport.
On the radio side, sure Colin Cowherd knows nothing about baseball, but he is pretty brilliant at hosting a radio show. Mike and Mike is solid, Doug Gottlieb is a rising star, and Mike Tirico was a decent choice to replace Dan Patrick. (I do think they should have given the job to the dynamic Brian Kenney, though.) Now the Stephen A. Hole hour is a huge mistake, but hey I guess I can understand them hiring...wait a minute, I can't even pretend I understand this one. What the hell are you thinking, ESPN?
The main focus of my piece here is how ESPN.com is almost worthless now. Beginning with the very busy screen and the videos pop-ups, the site is complete overload. I can't remember the last time I went there to check a score, as I hit Yahoo Sports for my updates. What used to be the big reason to go to ESPN.com, Page 2, now has very little quality left, outside of Bill Simmons. The one thing that could get readers to go to the site are insights by experts like Peter Gammons, Rob Neyer, and Andy Katz, but they are behind the pay wall mainly hidden with Insider status.
With the hiring of Jason Whitlock at FoxSports.com, this site is becoming more and more of a daily check. Already the site had the premier baseball writer around, Ken Rosenthal, plus other top writers like Mark Kriegel, Jay Glazer, Dayn Perry, and now adding Whitlock's no one is too big to take on talents, it is time to declare Fox Sports has become superior to ESPN.com. I like the video stuff that Jay Mohr is doing at the site, as well, especially considering his wife Nikki Cox makes guest appearances in them that are worth fast-forwarding to, even if you aren't interested in what her husband has to offer.
Between FoxSports.com, SI.com, and YahooSports.com, ESPN is becoming kind of irrelevant. Maybe it is time for ESPN.com to join The New York Times and wave the white flag on keeping most of its best columnists behind the pay curtain.