Let’s provide a few sports media thoughts on this Sunday. You know they’ll be in bullet form.
- ESPN’s live coverage of Wimbledon has been a joy over the last two weeks. Most everything has been shown on the Family of Networks. And in the second week when both ESPN and ESPN2 were deployed for the Round of 16 and the Quarterfinals, viewers were able to switch in between matches on Centre Court and the outer courts for the first time. No longer did viewers have to wait through frustrating NBC tape delays or find illegal back door internet feeds. Everything was shown live.
We’ve seen similar coverage on the U.S. Open with ESPN2 and Tennis Channel on the early rounds, but this could be a model for future Grand Slam tournaments. I’d like to see ESPN do this on the Australian and U.S. Opens for the later rounds as well.
I’ve liked the Breakfast at Wimbledon studio shows. This has given SW19 a special big event feel on ESPN. Hannah Storm has done well as host and interviews conducted by Mike Tirico have gone smoothly.
As far as the announcing is concerned, this is where ESPN needs some improvement. Chris Fowler talks too much and tries to steer analysts to his point of view. In addition, he attempts to do analysis which is the analysts’ job. I don’t mind if the play-by-play person challenges the analyst, but Fowler often makes loaded points and questions to ensure the analyst agrees with him. That’s not what he’s there for. During the Ladies Final between Agnieszka Radwanska and Serena Williams, there was a point in the second set with Serena leading 4-3 where Fowler asked Chris Evert if Radwanska was feeling the match was slipping away. Evert disagreed, Fowler kept pressing. Radwanska would eventually win the second set and I certainly felt Radwanska at 3-4 would not think the match was slipping from her grasp.
I’d like for ESPN to utilize Mike Tirico in the booth in the Semifinals and Finals. While Mike is certainly a very good host as he’s proved these last two weeks, he’s also very good on tennis play-by-play. And while it’s obvious ESPN original Cliff Drysdale is being phased out, I still think he still can serve aces in the booth.
As far as the analysts are concerned, bringing in John McEnroe was a very good move and Chris Evert has been decent, I am not enamored with Pam Shriver and she’s to the point of being very annoying.
Also, during the first week, ESPN appears to be too much in love with the studio and doesn’t show enough action. There seems to be too many interviews and talk, and not enough play on the court.
For the fortnight, I give ESPN a B minus for the first week and a B plus for the second week.
- Saturday night ended Fox’s eight week run of “Baseball Night in America”. While the ratings were a mixed bag, I think Fox may increase the number of primetime games next season. As Fox looks to provide sports the opportunity to program Saturday nights, why not go to primetime? And I like having the afternoons freed up for local games. Now if only Fox can provide fans with access to its out-of-market games either online or through the MLB Extra Innings package.
Having national games starting at 7:15 p.m. ET has been quite enjoyable.
- Did you notice that NBC is airing the Tour de France live on both days this weekend? That’s to fill the holes left from losing Wimbledon to ESPN. Expect that to become a permanent fixture from now on. I just wish NBC had called it “Croissants and Cycling” or something to that effect.
Those are the sports media thoughts.