ESPN was once a safe haven for sports fans and the only game in town. It was a place where people could go and catch a Hartford Whalers game if they lived in Nebraska or California. It was a place that before the advent of satellite TV and sports packages like Sunday Ticket and Extra Innings where you could catch a national glimpse of your team on shows like Sportscenter.
But the station has slowly diversified into different brands, ESPN2 (evolved from the hipper, cooler espn2), ESPN Classic, ESPN U and ESPNEWS. Not to mention ESPN: The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN Mobile, ESPN Radio, ESPN8: The Ocho, ESPN: The Jock Itch Cream, ESPNialis: THE solution for your embarrassing ED problems. This diversification, in seeking world dominance, has partially led to the "worldwide leader's" undoing.
The only ESPN property I pay any attention to these days is ESPNEWS because they have 24 hours to fill so in the middle of the day they actually do things like interview Nick Swisher and Susan Slusser and Marcos Breton. The rest of the time the parent channel does things like create original crappy movies like "3" and washed up ratings reality shows like The Contender. It wasn't the diversification by itself that killed the network. The changes happened gradually. Things like removing box scores from the end of a baseball highlight on Sportscenter. Or packaging three or four highlights together at once so you don't get any stats from the game whatsoever. Perhaps they assume the bottom line rundown is enough for us?
But my biggest problem with ESPN has to do with two things I've mentioned many times before. Their absolute Glenn Close-boil-the-bunny-like fixation on the Yankees and Red Sox and all teams East of the Mississippi have basically rendered the worldwide leader useless to me. And don't try and say that they have a national columnist in Bill Simmons. That guy is more obsessed with the Red Sox and Yankees than anyone. He is NOT a national columnist no matter how funny can be.
The channel has also fallen in love with controversy. So the Terrell Owens, Ron Artests, Ricky Williams and Maurice Clarretts of the world have dominated their programming. If it doesn't involved Kobe and Shaq in some kind of bra and panties cage match, this supposedly sports-centric channel doesn't want anything to do with it. You'd think Vince McMahon was responsible for their programming decisions. Is this ESPN or Dr. Phil? The only way the A's will get any attention from the big station is if we get a chair-throwing incident or Kenny Rogers tosses Ken Macha to the ground while he's holding a video camera. That's certainly how the Blue Jays got some air time for their pitcher and manager going toe-to-toe.
But ESPN could be brought back to life in the mind of the sports fans eye. They already have ponied up the money to have the NFL, MLB and NBA which is saving their collective asses right now(although I really miss NHL2Night on ESPN2 and the NHL on that channel). All they would have to do is throw fans a bone. Make your coverage truly national again and spend more than 30 seconds talking about teams West of the Mississippi (outside of the Lakers). Make the team pages on ESPN.com something other than a collection of tiny little stories. Tell the world about Frank Thomas's revival, Nick Swisher's emergence.
And for the love of God, can we please stop hearing 24-hour-a-day coverage of Terrell Owens' bowel movements, Barry Bonds' belly button lint, Ricky Williams' infatuation with Mary Jane and Ron Artests' future career at Circuit City? These guys may be interesting to you in their navel-gazing ways, but to the general public, we're tired of it. You have an entire nation of sports fans who want to have a true worldwide leader. Just do your part and give it to them. It's not that hard given your foundation of access to league telecasts and the US consumers' homes.