Welcome to SportsGrid’s new Tuesday feature, “Shut Up,” (pronounced: “shut up… comma”) where we add a name after the comma, telling that person (or TV show!) to stop saying words, because they’re being stupid. Last week, we told Johnny Damon to shut up, even though he was being mean to A-Rod. This week, we say: Shut up, SportsCenter.
Recently-launched Fox Sports 1 has been called a “competitor” to ESPN. But the reality is that the channel can’t do more than put a tiny dent in ESPN’s numbers since ESPN is so damn big. But it can raise the bar for sports programming, so its existence is unequivocally positive (unless you’re a SPEED fan, in which case you’ve probably taken your anger out on SportsGrid, for some reason).
But here’s one thing that FS1 can do: kill (or at least traumatically injure) SportsCenter. Its nightly sports news and highlights program, Fox Sports Live, is an exact analogue to SportsCenter, and it’s already a better alternative, just three days young. Seriously.
It’s no secret that SportsCenter was the greatest thing since sliced bread when it was created, and it remained the greatest thing since sliced bread until the past couple of years or so. Since whenever it become TebowBronCenter. And this isn’t just a circle-jerky media criticism: ask your friends, the average sports fan is not happy with SportsCenter.
FS1’s nightly sports news and highlights program, Fox Sports Live, though, can make a serious dent in ESPN’s analogue, SportsCenter, a show you’ve probably watched 19,000 times. In fact, it already has made a dent.
SportsCenter’s ratings were already on the decline, and on its debut night, Fox Sports Live grabbed a .2 rating, with SportsCenter at .6. Obviously, this means SC is way ahead right now. But obviously, these numbers don’t mean much, because FS1 numbers were boosted by people flooding to a highly-anticipated debut — as well as hampered by the fact that some people don’t yet know it exists, or that it’s an excellent product. But the point is that the gap is surmountable, and that FS1 will have a significant audience, SportsCenter-sized or not.
In terms of entertainment quality, ESPN is dead. It has been murdered, brutally, by two Canadian men, immediately upon their arrival. These shows exist for three things — news, highlights and brief analysis. SportsCenter no longer succeeds at these things. All they do is troll. Seriously, ALL THEY DO IS TROLL. They have zero respect for the Relatively Intelligent Sports Fan. The Relatively Intelligent Sports Fan stayed with SportsCenter until now, because he had no alternative. SportsCenter didn’t suffer. But now there is an alternative. A significantly better alternative.
Take last night, which as far as TrollCenter goes, was tame. On the ticker, we saw: “Redskins QB leaves game.” Of course, it was Kirk Cousins, not RGIII. Cool. Then, we had three minutes of Cris Carter breaking down and criticizing the Steelers’ offensive line play, in a preseason game. This isn’t a knock on Cris Carter, but this is a knock on proclaiming teams dead because their O-line was suspect in Meaningless Game No. 2. Then, there was the Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith feature, nonsense where no insight was given, and platitudetactular quotes from Sanchez (“gotta keep playing my best,” “having a great camp,” “just put my head down and let coaches decide” BLAH BLAH BLAH). It was classic 2013 SportsCenter: let’s debate a mildly important decision, without stats, insight or any new developments. If you want to discuss Sanchez without any insight — it must be done in a joking manner. This was serious, and it was useless.
We then had new/old addition Keith Olbermann break down the A-Rod-gets-hit-by-a-pich situation by pontificating on the pitcher’s motivation for about five minutes, coming to no conclusion, while melodramatic music played in the background. Nothing was accomplished, and yet again, an issue was dramatized. That was the theme of the show. That is the theme of the show.
Then, I tuned in to Fox Sports Live. It opened with a joke about the producer (I laughed!), then addressed the Dodgers losing an impressive streak, and dove right into the highlights after showing a rare, mythical event — an athlete saying something interesting — Jose Fernandez proclaiming that the Marlins had to kick the Dodgers’ asses. Two minutes in, I was hooked, and I hadn’t been trolled. I had been entertained. I had almost forgotten what it felt like.
Fox Sports Live doesn’t try too hard. It gives you news and highlights, it makes you laugh, and it keeps you informed. This is virtually all thanks to our saviors, Canadian co-anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole. They’re hilarious and have impeccable chemistry. As long as they’re anchoring, Fox Sports Live will be better than SportsCenter.
Fox Sports Live is not perfect. But it has the perfect attitude. It’s not a difficult concept — they entertain, inform and incite laughter. That’s all. I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud at SportsCenter. With Fox Sports Live on, I’m laughing constantly. This shouldn’t be a novel concept, but it apparently is.
Seriously, Fox Sports Live has plenty of flaws (though they’re all fixable, given time). The graphics are a bit weird and obtrusive, the “panel” wasn’t great — Donovan McNabb argued weird things like: “the Redskins are in trouble even though we just told you RGIII should be ready and Kirk Cousins injury is minor and Rex Grossman has a ton of experience for a third-stringer,” and Gary Payton didn’t seem to do much besides mean-mug every three seconds — and it’s not clear that FS1’s reporters can break news at ESPN’s level. Also, I must acknowledge: some people won’t like Jay and Dan. They made a hockey joke last night, and that will make smug Americans mad. “Tebow is da best QB ever cuz he’s nice” people will probably stick with ESPN. People who don’t like fun — these people do exist — will probably stick to SportsCenter.
But, like I said, the Relatively Intelligent Sports Fan doesn’t have to deliberate; he/she realizes that Fox Sports Live is superior to SportsCenter right now, and that it will only get better.
The anchors at SportsCenter are talented and likable. So are Jay and Dan (except they’re also funnier). But that’s not the differentiating factor. The difference lies in the higher-ups — ESPN’s are focused on trolling and treating us all like we’re idiots, while FS1’s keep things simple and entertaining. That’s all we’ve ever wanted. We used to have it at SportsCenter, and it’s refreshing to have it back.
SportsCenter is dead to people who enjoy fun. I like fun. I won’t be going back.