The Best and the Worst of ESPN Sports Programs

Michael KimbleContributor IIIJanuary 10, 2012

The Best and the Worst of ESPN Sports Programs

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    It's hard to be a sports fan and not follow ESPN, whether you listen to Mike and Mike in the Morning on your way to work, or if you like to watch PTI when you get home.

    ESPN has a lot of quality sports programming in both radio and television, but they also have plenty of programs that have either gone downhill in their quality, or were bad from the start, whether it be because of poor commentary or poor format.

    Here is a list of what I feel are the best and the worst of ESPN, when it comes to the programs that they offer on television and the radio and the commentators on these shows that they allow to air nationally.

Best Radio Show: Mike and Mike in the Morning

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    There's nothing better as a sports fan than to wake up every morning to Mike and Mike in the Morning. Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg both offer very different, but very interesting and intelligent commentary to their morning sports show.

    Mike Golic is a former NFL player, while Greenberg is a longtime sports journalist, so the two have very different perspectives on the sports world. However, their commentary and occasional humorous banter is always entertaining and interesting to listen to, and a great way to start the morning as a sports fan.

    Another thing that sets apart Mike and Mike from many other broadcast sports journalists is that they don't flood the airwaves with controversial comments and opinions that serve as shock value to garner ratings, what some believe to be quality entertainment, which is a problem with the radio show that I will discuss next as the worst radio show on ESPN.

Worst Radio Show: The Herd with Colin Cowherd

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    When Mike and Mike in the Morning is over, many ESPN radio stations will switch over to The Herd with Colin Cowherd, a show that couldn't be a more polar opposite than Mike and Mike.

    While Colin Cowherd is an intelligent and sometimes entertaining radio personality, his show is commonly reduced to berating his listeners on how wrong they are on a certain subject, and how right he is. And while he commonly makes solid points, he never shies away from pointing out how irrational he perceives fans to be, and by contrast, how rational he perceives himself to be.

    Cowherd also makes it quite clear what his priorities are: ratings. It seems like every day I hear him on the radio, he is defending why he only talks about certain subjects and certain teams that he deems to be popular by saying that it's what people want to hear and it's good for ratings. And while I suppose I appreciate the honesty, it's not necessarily what I or many other sports fans want to hear when they listen to a radio show.

    In contrast, Mike and Mike hardly ever berate their listeners, and when they do, it's in a playful fashion. In addition, Mike and Mike stick to sports talk, not ratings talk, and even though some of their content can be limited at times to specific stories or teams, they are not nearly as abrasive or condescending to the people who listen to their show.

    Colin Cowherd has some good ideas. If he would tone down the attitude, then I think he would be a more likable sports personality, and because of this, his sports show would be easier to listen to.

Best TV Show: Pardon the Interruption

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    Pardon the Interruption with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, has been around for years and has always been a favorite among ESPN viewers.

    Like Mike and Mike, Kornheiser and Wilbon are very different people who come from very different places, so their opinions are quite different. This commonly makes the show an interesting debate of current events in sports, but unlike a lot of other ESPN debate shows, Kornheiser and Wilbon are not screaming at each other. They may disagree, but it's not like watching ESPN's version of Crossfire.

    Pardon the Interruption also has plenty of interesting guests who answer a variety of different questions for the show, and sometimes will even debate with Kornheiser and Wilbon.

    PTI has a very unique format that has stayed consistent throughout the years, and for many ESPN viewers, it complements Mike and Mike in the Morning; as Mike and Mike is something many sports fans listen to on their way to work, PTI is something they can watch when they get home at 5:30.

Best New Show: Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable

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    ESPN has come out with a few new TV shows, but the most unique and enjoyable to watch is Dan Le Batard's new TV show, Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable.

    Le Batard hosts this sports talk show with his father as they sit in a kitchen and tackle a variety of sports issues every day. They also interview a variety of different and interesting guests, and to end the show, they play a fun and always humorous game of "Si or No," where they discuss whether or not they are intrigued by something that is on TV that night, whether it is a game or a documentary on the Discovery Channel.

    One of the best things about this show is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. It isn't afraid to get off-topic and be a little ridiculous, especially Le Batard's father, who is easily one of the funniest people on ESPN. Whether he is trying to slam dunk a lemon in a basket above the refrigerator or he is trying to pronounce T.J. Houshmanzadeh's name, it's always entertaining.

    But even without the humorous moments of the show, Dan Le Batard grounds the show with witty, insightful comments on current sports issue, which makes this a highly entertaining, even if it is highly questionable.

Worst TV Show: First Take

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    First Take used to be an interesting sports program that would have a variety of different guests and commentators, in addition to having a slew of different hosts that would focus on different things, with Jay Crawford and Dana Jacobson handling most of the interviews, and Reischea Canidate updating everyone periodically on the sports news of the day. In many ways, First Take was like the Good Morning, America of ESPN.

    As a sideshow, there was a debate segment called "First and 10," which would feature controversial sports commentator Skip Bayless, who would challenge his various "opponents" to debate him on various sports topics that he would commonly take a ridiculous and largely unpopular stance on.

    In August, the producers of First Take decided that the viewers hadn't gotten enough of Skip Bayless, so they decided to scrap 75 percent of the original format, and First Take became solely Skip Bayless debating various sports commentators and causing much controversy with his dramatic and ridiculous proclamations.

    Unlike Pardon the Interruption, these debates normally get out of hand, with Bayless commonly yelling at his opponents, and many of his opponents being just as grating as he is. Most notably, Stephen A. Smith, who has become a regular on the show as well, but his constant screaming matches with Skip Bayless have become almost unbearable to watch.

    First Take used to be a respectable show on ESPN, but instead, has decided to try and get better ratings by revolving their show around a controversial character like Bayless, which unfortunately has improved ratings. However, any regular viewer of the show will see that the quality of the show has greatly diminished.