The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

Moving Away from ESPN

Posted by Blake Murphy on June 9, 2008

This article has been submitted by Stu Wilkinson.

A couple days ago I moved out of the United States. Not in a ‘going on exchange to Europe’ or ‘teaching English in Japan’ way, but in a ‘getting a job at a Canadian insurance company and selling out to the man’ kind of way. Obviously this move made me ponder a lot of things, probably because I’m a very pensive person. I thought about if I’d ever be back to Mug Night at our local watering hole, or if I’d ever make it out to another bonfire at the legendary location known only as The Pipeline. Sadly, neither of those things had anything to do with sports, so I had to scrap the 10,000 word pieces I pumped out on each of them and try to come up with something fresh to satisfy this fine website’s overworked editor.

Something I can write about that is related to my emigration from the United States is, you guessed it, my unavoidable divorce with ESPN due to the move. In Canada there is no ESPN, only TSN, The Score, and Rogers Sportsnet. Sure, some of those networks will occasionally pick up an ESPN broadcast every once and a while, like Sunday Night Baseball or NCAA Basketball Big Monday. TSN even carries Pardon The Interruption all the time (when it’s not curling season), and you can catch a World Series of Poker show whenever you really need to get motivated to stop watching television and get some work done.

All this second-hand ESPN action, however, cannot compare with the dominance of the Worldwide Leader in its domestic market. In Canada you can find a lot of quality programming on a number of different channels, but when I was in Pittsburgh ESPN was pretty much my only source for sports television — Versus and TNT swooped in for the occasional game, but that was it in terms of ESPN’s competition. What did this dominance mean for me, the viewer? Way too much NFL Live, absolutely no hockey coverage, and journalism only one notch above the fact-finding done on the Fox News Channel, another staple of my viewing rotation when I was in the U.S.

Excuse me for one second, but I’m going to have to rip off a quick rant right here.

If I could sum up my last three weeks with ESPN in a single, grammatically disastrous sentence, it would look like this: Pacman Jones Pacman Jones Yankees NBA NFL NBA NFL Dancing With The Stars Pacman Jones NBA NBA Yankees. What’s that Stuart Scott? A certain Cowboy might not be happy with having Pacman on the team? Tell me more! I really care about the Dallas Cowboys in the middle of May, especially when the story revolves around their backup cornerback. Give me more Pacman, and then sprinkle in a little slurping of the NBA just for fun. Then come back from one of those commercial breaks that have made you the most profitable cable channel of all time and tell me more about Dancing With The Stars! Nuts to showing actual sports highlights, let’s manufacture controversies and tie in sports with other Disney properties!

With that out of the way, I can say that I’ll miss some things about being completely dependent on ESPN for my sports coverage. First, ESPN absolutely murders Canada’s college basketball coverage in cold blood. During college hoops season you can always find a prime time game on either ESPN or The Deuce, which is pretty much heavenly for me. Throw in Dick Vitale, who is probably my favorite college hoops announcer ever (sorry Gus Johnson and Billy Packer), and you’ve got a very good reason why I like college ball more than the professional version.

Second…there is no second. I guess something else I would miss if ESPN was replaced by a generic sports channel (I’m looking at you, Fox Sports Net) would be Page 2 from Not all of Page 2, just the Sports Guy’s World. And not all of the Sports Guy’s articles, just the ones that don’t talk about basketball that was played before I was walking. Sorry Bill, I don’t care about that tantalizing 1984 Eastern Conference Second Round series between the Celtics and some other team. But seriously, I would miss his other work, mostly because it’s quite entertaining.

Besides losing massive college hoops coverage, however, I really am happy to be moving on from ESPN dependency. While their talk shows like Around The Horn, Jim Rome, and even PTI are generally unentertaining affairs that are only produced to make sports easier to follow and talk about for casual fans, Canadian talk shows are different. Of course, by Canadian talk shows I mean The Score’s late afternoon lineup. Here’s what the people on The Score will talk about on a typical day: Hockey, gambling, and how much MLSE sucks. Luckily, the gambling category includes just about every sport under the sun since The Score’s talk show hosts are mostly degenerate gamblers looking for an edge in any and all sporting competitions. Today I tuned into Game On (6:30-7:00) with Cam and Gabe for a little bit after work and they actually talked about betting on the WNBA. That’s dedication, folks.

So sure, some people in the United States worship the very ground that ESPN doesn’t walk on — we all remember the news story a couple years back about a couple very well-educated parents naming their child Espen after the Worldwide Leader. But you can count me as someone on the other side of some sort of figurative fence, standing right there with Rush Limbaugh, Bobby Knight, and a shadowy figure that sort of resembles Bill Simmons. All I really need for my sports fix are some streaming college basketball games, a little sports talk from The Score, Sportsnet’s late night west coast NBA action, and TSN’s coverage of all things Leafs. Yup, ESPN is pretty much useless to me.

This article has been submitted by Stu Wilkinson.

12 Responses to “Moving Away from ESPN”

  1. joe Says:

    i lived in london for 1.5 years and when i came back i could not stand to watch sportscenter or any of the other shows where sports writers/analysts sit around and yell. to this day i will only watch live sports and espn news…you will not miss espn….

  2. the truth hurts Says:

    wow - espn bashing - is a network supposed to please ALL fans 24 hours a day? answer is no

  3. the truth hurts Says:

    wow espn bashing…i forgot that network that is supposed to please all the fans all the time for 24 hours a day..what is that again? oh yeah NO NETWORK!
    just becuase you can post blog does not mean you should

  4. Alpha Wolf Says:

    The World Wide Leader is like most members of the Disney family: thin on substance and with a thick layer of self-serving hype on top. This is, after all, a company made rich by the imaginary exploits of a six-foot-tall rat and the ticket sales at theme parks designed to make films seem like reality. As such, it reaches its young target-audience well. This is a generation raised on MTV-style editing, with flashing, quick-cut imagery, sound effects for every movement shown, all shown at a volume level too loud to ignore. ESPN only feeds them what they want.

    For those of us from more thoughtful eras or corners of the world, ESPN is like a bad song on Top-40 radio. It’s jangly, repetitive and unfortunately, something that sticks to the mind like gum to the bottom of a shoe. We may hate it, but it cannot be escaped.

  5. Stu Scott's Super Colon Blow Says:

    Calvin peeing on something? THAT’S SO FUCKING ORIGINAL!!! HIGH FIVE!!!!!111!!!

  6. Blake Murphy Says:

    Haha Stu, you’re getting chirped a bit here. Defend yourself!

    Personally, I’ve never had ESPN…so The Score will have to do (Micallef!)

  7. Stu Says:

    If you say so Blake…

    To Mr. Scott’s Colon: Sorry, I just stole the first anti-ESPN image I could find. If I had the time I would have drawn a sharp and witty cartoon that summed up my whole piece, but I didn’t. Well, I probably did, but I didn’t anyway.

    To The Other Guy: When you have about twenty outlets to work with, shouldn’t you be able to cover everything and at least please everyone a little bit? Rational people think ESPN is intentionally trying to kill hockey, that shouldn’t happen for a network with such a large reach. Why not throw in some hockey talk, or some MMA talk, or some soccer talk, or some underwater basket-weaving talk, onto one of the afternoon talk shows instead of having the talking heads rattle on and on about the same stuff?


  8. Stu Scott's Super Colon Blow Says:

    Well that’s a reasonable explanation. Thank you.

    The pass down low… now THAT’S a clean colon!!

  9. Cards81fan Says:

    @the truth hurts

    Wow, I heard you say the same thing two times, 12 minutes apart, but change the wording a bit to make it sound like enlightening news each time you spouted it.

    You sound JUST like ESPN…

  10. Joe Says:

    Amen brother. ESPN is just awful. It’s coverage is so limited despite having the werewithal to do so much more it is embarrassing. Great piece.

  11. Mike Says:

    I’ve already rid myself of ESPN except for when they’re broadcasting a game I absolutely have to see. Why listen to the clowns on SportsCenter when I can get everything I need online without the bad comedy?

  12. A real expat Says:

    Sorry, living in Canada is not “emigration”. You can easily get ESPN from satellite providers. Heck, we can get it here in Asia, and if you’re really pressed, you can get a Slingbox.

    But as you say yourself, this is a bullshit column only written to take up space. Written because something needs to be said, by someone, somewhere, about something. Sort of like the vapid ESPN “fill up the time” programming that he’s criticizing, eh?

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