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Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
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Is Even Relevant Anymore?
2007-09-26 21:42
by Scott Long

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 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, 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, 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 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,, and, ESPN is becoming kind of irrelevant. Maybe it is time for to join The New York Times and wave the white flag on keeping most of its best columnists behind the pay curtain.

2007-09-26 21:54:28
1.   Johan was my homepage way back. Never, ever, go there anymore, for the reasons you stated. Too busy, and the very few things of value have to be paid for. I even paid for Insider one year before everybody's stuff went there, but didn't renew because I didn't want the mailman to think I actually paid for ESPN: The Magazine.

I cringed to find out Jay Mohr bagged Nikki Cox. Then I realized he has to live his life knowing he's married to a woman with such good taste as to have been attracted to Bobcat Goldthwait.

2007-09-26 21:55:13
2.   Knuckles
Mike & Mike are decent for 15 minute stretches at a time on the rare days I drive to work.

The rest of ESPN that isn't the highlights of a particular game I want to see highlights of is absolute trash.

Even on BBTN, they hardly show the fullscreen graphic box scores anymore. Most often it's just a small score, WP, LP, HR graphic over the video action.

Their afternoon/early evening shows are devolving so quickly that I won't be surprised when (in the near future) they just say "F it" and produce a show called "I Can Yell Louder Than You!"

2007-09-26 22:11:28
3.   Suffering Bruin
I checked on a daily basis during summer break... after I did everything I could to desperately help my fantasy baseball team.

For me it's become a habit. You've just recommended Yahoo! sports so give me a week and I'll probably stop clicking

I will never give up watching ESPN, though. All the people who trash ESPN are also watching ESPN. I'm right there with 'em.

2007-09-26 22:52:27
4.   Hugh Jorgan
I am loathe to pay for content(though I do at BP) so ESPN has very little to offer these days. In saying that I am even more reluctant to give any time and money to anything created by Rubert Murdoch. Best thing we Aussies did was letting him become a U.S. citizen.
2007-09-27 01:02:38
5.   overkill94
I used to watch Sportscenter, Baseball Tonight, and all the other ESPN staples fairly regularly until the internet was so prevalent that nothing on any of the shows was news to me. The only reason to ever watch ESPN apart from the aforementioned college broadcasts is if there's a highlight I really want to see, but it seems has anything worth watching posted anyway.

It's sad that a network with such resources has devolved into a wasteland of actual information. Most of the "experts" simply spout controversial opinions to get people riled up instead of bringing something informative to the table whether it be actual analysis, in-depth stats, or inside information. Instead they have lengthy conversations about their picks for postseason awards by yelling at each other about why each candidate is so worthy without bringing anything but the standard stat categories into play (he's hitting .330! MVP for sure!) Slowly but surely the more informative stats are making their way to the mainstream, maybe someday ESPN will follow suit.

2007-09-27 02:56:23
6.   joejoejoe
Unless you have hyperspecialized information (Basebell Prospectus, IraqSlogger) you can't operate online behind a paywall. I know ESPN is trying to make money (it's a business) but they are going to kill their name brand with the paywall content. ESPN can't afford to have more and more people talking sports and not being in that mix so it's better to give away the web content and recoup their money on the broadcast end.

I did see a story someplace that said is redesigning their homepage and going to stop the autoplay video. If you think is bad try It makes your eyes and ears bleed.

2007-09-27 06:12:06
7.   jgpyke
Cowherd is a whiny quint. Dibble was the only good thing about DP's show.

Kornholer is just awful, in every medium. Like the world needs another baby boomer tellin' us how it is (or was).

But perhaps the worst personality on ESPN is Berman. His schtick is so played out.

2007-09-27 06:28:28
8.   Shaun P
Simmons, Gregg Easterbrook, John Heylar, and Eric Neel are the only not-behind-the-wall guys I bother to read at Each is also probably the high king of what they do.

But IMHO, Neyer alone makes the $26 I shell out each year for the Mag (free Insider access included) worthwhile. None of the other big name sites your mentioned has anyone like Neyer. Keith Law is just icing on the cake. Peter Gammons is usually still a good read, but its different now - its like Rosenthal took his place when he was sick.

Oh, and the current ombudsman is a great read too. She's much better than the first guy.

I horribly miss Brian Kenney on ESPNNEWS - he is far and away their best anchor, and he made that channel worth watching. Even he can't save SportsCenter though.

2007-09-27 07:13:03
9.   Josh Wilker
Great point about the busy-ness of, and the superiority in that regard of Yahoo (although unfortunately they too are getting busier). I do go to ESPN to check for new Jonah Keri and Bill Simmons stuff. I wish I could read Rob Neyer's stuff, but I'm too cheap/perpetually broke. I'm even too cheap for cable, so I can't comment on Dan Shulman as a TV guy, but I find his verbal delivery on radio broadcasts incredibly annoying. He has this thing where he slips the syllable "ah" in everywhere, e.g., "second-ah-base, Jason-ah-Varitek." Am I the only one to notice this? It ah really ah gets on my nerves.
2007-09-27 07:14:21
10.   Suffering Bruin
See what I mean?

Since I last posted, we've read a variety of critiques that could only come from people who have watched a great deal of ESPN and no doubt still do. My hometown paper, the LA Times, has writers that frequently snipe at ESPN. Whenever they do, I picture ESPN executives nodding their heads and saying, "Thanks for watching."

8 If ESPN lowered the firewall, I'd have a celebratory dinner. Neyer was a big part of my day.

2007-09-27 08:01:38
11.   Ali Nagib
I probably would have cancelled my Insider subscription by now, were it not for one man that's gone unmentioned until now: John Hollinger. Instead of paying $20+ for his book each fall like I did a few years ago, I now get the same content from The full D-1 college team previews are also usually interesting, albeit only for a brief time of the year. There is also just enough columnists and chatters like Neyer to make up the rest of the price. Not the greatest deal ever, but on balance I find it fair for what I want.

As far as scores and gamecasts, however, I go elsewhere, as I agree that the site has gotten too busy and bloated to function well for that purpose. Half the time I end up going to the league sites for MLB and NFL gamecasts, as both of those have decent interfaces.

2007-09-27 08:13:06
12.   Scott Long
THanks for mentioning Easterbrook and Hollinger, as I agree on their talents. I just don't go to enough to remember them.

I do agree with Suffering Bruin that a lot of people watch ESPN all the time and then rip the channels. I'm focused on the website, which I think has become really bad. The regular network has its moments, though I mainly watch it for college sports, as the professional info I get from other sources for the most part.

2007-09-27 08:54:55
13.   ryu
I cannot stand listening to Colin Cowherd. The guy makes a point, and repeats it for the next half-hour. I mean, he makes a point, and repeats it for the next half-hour. Really, he makes a point over and over.

On TV, Doug Gottlieb needs to learn how to sit still in front of the camera. I want to reach into the screen and hold him still.

2007-09-27 08:58:18
14.   Schteeve
Dude, Steve Phillips? Really? He's a know nothing blowhard.

Also the fact that ESPN still pays Rick Sutcliffe to announce baseball games indicts the entire operation.

And yeah, became almost 100% useless for me the minute they put Neyer behind the Insider curtain.

2007-09-27 09:14:47
15.   crowes
I rarely visit the site anymore myself. I've just loaded the RSS feeds for each of the columnists I read (Simmons, Gammons, Law, Neyer, Hollinger)into my feed aggregator (Bloglines)and I get everything I want without having to visit the site. As a matter of fact, that's how I pick up this site.

I agree that ESPN does a great job with NCAA Football and Basketball. BBTN has become all flash and no substance and don't even get me started on their 4-6pm block.

2007-09-27 09:50:01
16.   Shaun P
10 Something tells me a fair number of us are also previous big watchers of ESPN who don't bother anymore, and just pick up on the most egregious stuff (like Steve Phillips' "the Yanks won't make the postseason" garbage) from the 'Net and other sources.

That is me at least.

11 Hollinger is also excellent, but I don't really follow pro-ball, so I don't read him frequently. Andy Katz's NCAA men's b-ball is also great stuff.

2007-09-27 09:57:31
17.   Bluebleeder87
I agree with Scott Long, ESPN sucks now

I also think Scott is right in that FoxSports.Com is way better then ESPN.Com now.

2007-09-27 10:49:06
18.   blue22
I like more than ESPN the network(s) least you can pick and choose the content you want online, and not have to sit through "Who's Now" segments to get to what you want.

They have pretty good basketball coverage (TrueHoop was a great addition) and a handful of their writers mentioned above are very worthwile (Law, Neyer, Hollinger, Simmons, Gammons, Neel, Kerri).

Their sortable stats are also pretty convenient, moreso than any other common site I've found.

2007-09-27 11:12:03
19.   JasonO
Long, Steve Phillips said six weeks ago that the Yankees were doomed for not trading Kennedy and Cabrera for Eric Gagne. has lost its luster b/c it's a clearing house for liberal social engineering masquerading as sports coverage:
1) Ralph Wiley's accusations against Tiger Woods that he's not black enough, etc.
2) Championing title IX which, just as the radical feminists (who draped it in "equality" sheep's clothing) hoped, is killing men's sports teams at dozens of colleges.
3) Almost daily coverage (for months) of the Martha Burk publicity stunt.
4) Duke lacrosse coverage. Enough said.
5) Jamele Hill, Howard Bryant, et al: Their "special interest" columnists are all left wing.

It's the NY times of the sports media.

2007-09-27 11:42:50
20.   standuptriple
It was discouraging when they started to steer away from the pure stats and more towards the Infotainment industry. I recall being real worried when Mickey Mouse and his cronies started calling the shots. Focus groups and trying to snip Nielsen ratings from Best Damn Sports Show (who's schtick should have never been tried to interject into ESPN) only turned their base away. Now it's all about throwing more bells and whistles on the site to cater to the Information Generation (must have been an amazing focus group).
I hit it up rarely, just to look at the train wreck it's become. I guess I'm a voyeur too.
2007-09-27 12:40:18
21.   scareduck
ESPN's Flash-heavy site has succeeded in driving me away from them as a primary destination for news about the team. One thing they do do better than Yahoo is presenting newswire stories germane to baseball (Yahoo insists on putting all the game recaps in the pile). Another is their presentation of box scores; ESPN shows both sides at the same level on the page, which makes it easier to see what went on in the game. Yahoo insists on having visitor up top and home below, making the whole thing more difficult to read. However, ESPN's formatting takes much longer to render, which is in keeping with their busier website style.

I have had to add stuff to Adblock to make loading's site tolerable. I have also had to do this with Yahoo, at least, understands what is necessary to make a good visitor experience work. Intrusive video, Flash geegaws that seem to assault you unless you gird your browser to prevent them in advance ... ESPN is a mess.

Some of ESPN's writers are worth reading, but not always. Ken Rosenthal has overtaken Peter Gammons as reading material, even though I generally don't read either on even a weekly basis, mainly because neither of them does a bang-up job of covering the western divisions.

2007-09-27 12:41:33
22.   scareduck
I should also add that ESPN has better stats, with peripherals on pitchers, which not even Baseball-Reference carries (K/9 and K/BB in particular).
2007-09-27 13:25:45
23.   rbj
About the only time I go to is Sunday afternoons to see the new college football rankings. I've lately just been more of a Yankees fan than sports in general, so I just hang out at Yankee bloggers' sites.

And Cowherd is just plain awful. I'll listen for about a minute on the drive home for lunch (and there's nothing else on the radio) and even on the rare occasion when he makes a good point he'll beat it to death via repetition.

AS a baseball fan I'll watch BBTN, but mostly because there isn't another baseball show on.

2007-09-27 13:28:15
24.   Scott Long
Here is my pseudo defense of Steve Phillips.

*I think he does a good job when combined with Schulman and Hershiser in the booth. While I don't like him as much on Baseball Tonight, I do appreciate that he is willing to give his opinions (even if they are wrong) unlike most former baseball players ESPN uses.

*For his prediction that the Yankees wouldn't make the post-season, there are a lot of experts who could have been hit over the head on that one. Tim Kurjian was the only expert I can remember who always stuck by his guns that the Pinstripers would be playing into October.

*I can't defend the trade for Gagne that Phillips thought they should do, though.

Let me do my quarterly comment that you can't rip announcers, unless you can offer up examples of who some good ones are. Sorry, but I'm grading on a curve and I would rate Phillips as one of the better analysts in the baseball booth. This comment also points out that football and basketball have superior talent behind the mic.

2007-09-27 13:36:47
25.   Scott Long
I knew I would catch a lot of flak for my Cowherd comments here. I was sure to mention that he knows almost nothing about baseball. What he does do very well is football and he has an irreverent sense of humor that needs to be listened to on a regular basis to get fully.

The rip that people who don't live on the East Coast knock ESPN for is that it skews heavily towards the east coast. Ask Dodger or Cubs fans here about how the network covers their teams in comparison to Yankees and Red Sox. Look, I understand why they do it, as it is where the ratings are for baseball, but it can drive you crazy if you aren't an AL EAST fan.

Cowherd is from the Pacific Northwest, lived in Vegas and FLorida. He is not much of baseball fan, but his knowledge on football is really good, plus he says a lot of stuff that all the other corporate lackeys at ESPN would never think of tackling. Not for everybody, but as someone who has hosted a sports show a few times, I marvel sometimes at how Cowherd can do a show by himself and stay interesting.

2007-09-27 13:50:52
26.   rbj
To me, Cowherd comes across as an arrogant jerk, very full of himself. Sort of like Jim Rome.

Mike & Mike are decent; too often it seems that sports radio folk seem to feel the need to go nuclear on an athlete or an issue, rather than calmly discuss it.

I won't blast Philips for saying the Yankees were dead. I thought so too. But the Gagne trade, Zumaya for Shmoltz last year and A-Rod can't cut it in NY (after he'd already won an MVP in NY) makes me question how he ever got to be a major league GM.

2007-09-27 21:04:34
27.   Suffering Bruin
To me, Cowherd comes across as an arrogant jerk, very full of himself. Sort of like Jim Rome.

Humility doesn't work well in talk radio.

2007-09-27 22:42:58
28.   WorthingWC
Not necessarily on topic, but to this day I would watch replays of Olberman/Patrick Sportcenter. It was the best show on TV. Not just the best sports show, the best show. It was funnier and more entertaining than anything else on TV.

I have an Insider account, but it just isn't worth using anymore. Neyer changed baseball for me; but the site is too much a PITA to use. Everyone worth reading switched to blogs, which is fine in theory, even better. Except that it takes too long to load a page because the blog pages are 30 pages long at times.

BP and other sites have easier, faster, better content. I have better ways to spend my 10 cyber-seconds.

2007-09-27 23:06:56
29.   bartap74
I read Rob Neyer every day for years. I stopped when ESPN made his column pay-to-read and I haven't been back. I miss his writing, but I'm not paying for baseball analysis when there's so much high quality stuff available for free elsewhere.

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