There was a considerable amount of lament when ESPN laid off 100 on-air personalities. Some, like Outkick the Coverage decided to attack the business model of ESPN. Others took a moment to criticize who was kept as much as who was let go.
Today, we saw another monumentally defining moment from the sports behemoth. The Sports Reporters, the venerable discussion panel program which has aired for four decades on Sunday morning, aired its final episode. I think that this program shows exactly why the changes are occurring. Who really watched this program? I did, I think a lot of people my age and older did, but we are a dying breed both figuratively and literally.
Gone are the days where we got up on Sunday morning, grabbed a cup of coffee, then our Sunday newspaper, sat down at the table and pored over each story. Sundays were always about feature articles. There was a lot in that Sunday sports section. As a kid, I loved it.
Now? I check the news online. I look at a couple of my 'go to' websites, I look at stories that interest me, then I go to twitter to see if there is anything being missed by some of the more traditional sites. I have some magazine subscriptions, but they come directly to the 'newsstand' app on my phone.
When I do watch television, mostly for sports, like many, I need something to draw me in and that is where the change in how people are targeted has changed the entire dynamics of sports coverage. Like all of talk media, people have developed a sort of adversarial relationship with whichever side of the coin that differs in view. Each side feels like they are being ignored when they speak in more reverent tones; so they raise their voices a little, then a little more, until it becomes two people speaking as loudly as possible trying to convince each other that the other is wrong.
This is what happened to THe Sports Reporters; people seem to no longer value quiet discussion panels. The sports world has become 'Jerry Springerized' and it is sad in many ways. But we also get what we ask for and this is the world in which we live. A sports world where he who speaks loudest, or says the most outrageous things gets attention.
Click bait. Ratings. Really, that is what it is about. The Sports Reporters simply did not have the ratings to continue on in its current fashion, and it was too well established in its current format to attempt a makeover.
What should we do? Well, really there is nothing we can do to bring back the show, but if it is that type of programming you want, when they come back with a podcast channel - watch. The truth is that ratings will still rule the world. In some ways, I think that this is going to be a good thing. I think that we will be able to cut the cord even more and find better outlets for our sports commentary viewership.
Anyway, I do want to bid the program a fond farewell. The reporters who appeared over the years were ultimate professionals and very good examples of what I would like to have been as a writer. I approached this thing much later in life and have the constraints associated with discovering this new passion so late, but I learned so much from guys like Dick Schaap, John Saunders, Bob Ryan, Mitch Albom, William Rhoden and Mike Lupica.
Like many of the other talented people at ESPN, these men are gifted writers and will be fine. I am just going to miss that Sunday morning tradition. So, fare thee well old friends.