Smart stuff about the sports boob tube

Will Leitch continues his refreshing break from the predictable sports media rip-snorting with his Sports on Earth columns; in his latest, he assesses the relatively new NBC Sports Network with this gem:

I’ve generally progressed to the point in my sports viewing life that I almost exclusively watch sports channels for actual sports, rather than people talking about sports. Years of ESPN have beaten me down. I can sort of only handle the games themselves anymore.

But it’s obvious that NBC Sports Network is trying something different. Every time I’ve turned on the channel — and it has become my “all right, so there are no live sports on right now but I need something in the background” default channel — the one thing I never see are two people screaming at each other. I don’t see little widgets keeping score between sportswriters, or #embracedebate, or Happy Birthday, Backup Quarterback. I see at least an honest attempt to be an alternative to ESPN, a place where all the junk that has surrounded ESPN, the corporate junk that has completely taken over the network we all fell in love with a decade ago, a place where all that takes a backseat to, you know, the actual sports.

The reason ESPN has become so infuriating to sports fans over the last decade isn’t because they’re evil, or because nobody smart works there. It’s because they have had no challengers: They’ve become more about ESPN than about sports because consumers haven’t given them any reason not to. That’s what corporations do when they dominate a market: They maximize profit, at the expense of the consumer. It is our job, as consumers, to be market-corrective: To demand higher quality, and choose it when it’s available.

Read on. This is a good one.

So is this from the Boston Globe‘s Chad Finn, which further explains the NBC and CBS cable sports challenges, and a nominal response from ESPN.

Don’t forget that it wasn’t all that long ago that The Onion foretold of a very grisly live scenario on the set of “SportsCenter,” according to a foremost academic expert on the subject:

The strained faces of the presenters as they read yet another Tim Tebow story late last year, their tortured voices as they tried to pass off the statistical anomaly of ‘Linsanity’ as some sort of magical phenomenon—classic evidence of stress and trauma. Given what I’ve seen on the show this week, I’d be surprised if we get through the Peyton Manning free-agency tour without a tragic incident, let alone March Madness.

You never know when that breaking point may be reached.

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