Summer Sports Reporting an Oxymoron?

Joe D.Analyst IJuly 19, 2008

Over the past few summers we have learned that the summer is usually regarded as the only season to get a life for a sports fan.  While we can waste our nights watching a baseball game or the occasional Olympic Trial program, there really isn't much of anything going on.  So what do we do?  Usually buy a season preview magazine for the upcoming football season and start to join random fantasy football leagues. 

But one thing you can't take away from a sports fan is our news.  Waking up, getting your morning coffee and watching ESPN/Fox Sports/Comcast SportsNet goes hand in hand year round.  However, using ESPN's SportsCenter as our guinea pig; we've learned that there STILL isn't much of anything going on.  But once that one fringe story comes along?  Mass Chaos ensues.

Luckily for ESPN, the NFL's offseason is becoming the sports equivalent of CNN's Election Coverage.  It's a circus.  Over the past few seasons, we've been "lucky" enough to witness the following:

-Terrell Owens telling Andy Reid to "shut up", getting suspended, talking negatively about his team on PTI, and doing that infamous driveway workout.
-Terrell Owens being a Cowboy with Bill Parcells as the HC.
-Michael Vick's dogfighting enterprise coverage and the greatest trial to never occur.

And just when we think we are out of the tundra, Brett Favre decides to end his retirement.  Thankfully, Greg Norman's chase for the Open is giving us a weekend off of Favre headlines. 

Just as predictable as a huge, but off-field issue, is the ESPN Summer Series.  Yes, they can be irritating but we honestly can't blame the company for making them.  Nonetheless, could you make something interesting?  I personally loved 50 States in 50 Days even if I had to hear "Open Road" by Bryan Adams 7 times a day; but it was at least interesting.  I found it amusing to check out the different sport cultures of other states and loved the piece of the "longest baseball game played" for the Rhode Island edition.  ESPN would follow that up with the recurring "My Wish" segments which is as tear jerking as they come (the Smarty Jones segment got my mom to tears almost immediately).  Again, solid idea ESPN. 

But the past two summers have giving us some useless fodder.  Who's Now?  Reallllllllllllllly?  Who didn't expect Tiger Woods to win it all?  This year's edition is Titeltown U.S.A. and while I love sports history, it's just useless.  Al Kaline for Detroit was good but some of the cities just seem like they are reading off a script when describing their city.  Plus could you really take the title away from Green Bay?  I'd honestly wouldn't mind to see My Wish just extend for another week or so. 

So that being said:  What can you do to fix the summer doldrums in reporting?  My proposals are as follows:

Down on the Farm

When it comes to the summer, baseball is king.  As the trade deadline approaches, fans start to engage themselves with potential prospects that could be used in trades for elite positional players.  Why not do a five minute segment on those who could be the future stars?  Buster Olney or Keith Law could highlight the David Prices of the Minor Leagues and provide tape with analysis on those players.  It may not be exciting or ground - breaking but it would be nice filler.  At least better than "Freeze Frame" where you pick the coolest photo in the sports world.

The Insider Report

As most of us know, ESPN has something called "The Insider" that gives you several key stories and rumors before they hit newsstands.  However it's a service in which you have to pay for.  Why not introduce a teaser every day that gives us a little sneak preview on what we "may" be missing out on?  At least do something!

The "Other" Sports

Yes we know that the MLS, Indy Racing League, Major League Lacrosse and Track aren't exactly popular sports.  But instead of those 5-second blips why not try to branch out?  Considering ESPN actually airs them why not attempt swinging over a few NASCAR fans to watch Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves on off-weekends?  The IRL and MLS suffer from an identity crisis.  Sure they have their big names (David Beckham, Castroneves) and their pop - culture stars (Beckham again and Danica Patrick) but how about introducing the masses to other players / drivers?  Maybe some people are curious who this Jozy Altidore or Dixon actually is?  How about learning about guys like Nick Symmonds or Galen Rupp who will be representing America in the upcoming Olympics for track?  There will be some minimal interest at least.

In conclusion, the sports world is in the doldrums.  Yes, we all know.  But instead of corny gimmicks or focusing on tabloid news; why not continue doing sports reporting?  ESPN is getting complaints about "selling out" or being the "next MTV" but it doesn't have to be that way.  Sure you don't have to focus your whole show on the IRL but give a shout out to the sports you actually, you know cover.