ESPNU briefly became ESPN 8: The Ocho on August 8, 2017. It was a hilarious experiment inspired by the 2004 Vince Vaughn / Ben Stiller film Dodgeball. The joke in Dodgeball is that ESPN televises so many sports that they need an 8th channel just to show things like dodgeball tournaments and water skiing squirrels. A hilarious premise indeed. Can you imagine a world where ESPN airs sports? So many that multiple channels are required to show all of the sports? Sadly, that joke isn’t close to a reality 13 years later.
My cable provider, Time Warner / Spectrum, currently has dedicated channels for ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNU, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Deportes, and whatever other regional channels Disney is experimenting with along the lines of the Longhorn Network. ESPN and ESPN2 both inhabit two different channel numbers. On any given weekday only ESPN Classic is showing actual sports.
Most of those channels are filled on a daily basis by programs discussing sports. Or sports-related topics like kneeling during a National Anthem and vague tweets by athletes that may or may not be indirectly directed at other athletes or sports executives. Or repeats of programs discussing these things. Personally, I’d prefer the water skiing squirrel.
ESPN – and FOX Sports (which I’m ethically obligated to inform you also employs The Big Lead editor-in-chief Jason McIntyre) for that matter – spend almost all of your waking hours airing shows talking about sports. It seems that sports channels long ago stopped, you know, airing sports.
I’m not talking about the NFL and NBA and MLB. Those are all great and expensive to broadcast and there are too many competitors willing to pay for them. I’m talking about the stuff “The Ocho” showed today. Kabaddi, roller derby, 8-month old darts tournaments, some other stuff I didn’t watch. The point is, it was there. Why can’t I watch that instead of the replay of a talk radio broadcast? ESPN3 (WatchESPN) has a ton of live content. Pick a few things and put them on television.
I understand that business-wise sports channels not showing sports is smart. It’s much cheaper to put people on television to talk about sports than it is to pay to air people playing sports. But that cost should probably be weighed against the fact that ESPN(s) and FOX Sports(s) are sports channels. Maybe pepper in some sports.
Remember timber sports? Arena football? Snooker? Australian Rules Football? Why aren’t those things on television every day? You know how the Olympics are super popular? Well those events must exist outside the Olympics. American hero Katie Ledecky swims at Stanford. Many of her less-famous contemporaries probably compete at similar institutions in events that could be easily broadcast on a larger scale.
The World Cup is quite popular. I’m pretty sure most of those American athletes played collegiately. Put some of those games on television. How about X-Games games outside of the X-Games? NBA Summer League just did well. How much would you have to pay to broadcast Tim Tebow’s minor league baseball games?
ESPN was supposed to be a sports channel. Then ESPN2 was supposed to be a sports channel that showed sports. Now we all have a dozen sports channels and it’s hard to find any sports on television. Somebody should really start a sports network for sports. It just might be crazy enough to work.