ESPN has been the premier network when it comes to sports over the last 30 years.
Whether you agree with the somewhat sensationalist direction it's taken in the last few years is another matter.
But with shows like SportsCenter, Monday Night Football, Baseball Tonight, the Stanley Cup Finals, the Scripps National Spelling Bee, or the NBA or NFL Drafts, it's lived up to its namesake and provided sports fans with countless hours of entertainment.
And thanks to some talented writers and advertisers, they've managed to capture our attention with some hilarious commercials as well.
Odds are that if you've watched any amount of ESPN, you've seen some of the "This is SportsCenter" ad spots, which have been around for the last 16 years.
The sheer comedic brilliance of these 30 second clips has been unmatched by any network (sports or non-sports).
The following is a compilation of the 50 best commercials ESPN has cranked out in the last decade-and-a-half. Limiting this list to 50 was almost sacrilegious—it easily could have been a top 200 list.
There's almost assuredly going to be a few classics left off the list. As I made this slideshow, I came across at least five or six more commercials that definitely could have made the cut.
As you'll notice, almost all of them are of the "This is SportsCenter" variety. Why? Because those are easily the best ones (and the most entertaining).
Let's start with a few that didn't get on the list, but easily could have...
25 Honorable Mentions
—Ozzie Guillen tries to call up the bullpen, but gets SC anchor Neil Everett instead.
—Stuart Scott and Scott Van Pelt shed their warm ups in anticipation for the upcoming show.
—Dan Patrick and the rest of the staffs have their own unique superstitions before shows.
—David Wright, Neil Everett, and Scott Van Pelt make plans for the evening, but don't want the Wake Forest Demon Deacon mascot to find out.
—Sometimes old school players (like George Mikan) drop by Bristol to give their insight on some highlights.
—Jose Reyes shows Karl Ravech how to swing his hips.
—Jay Harris uses Michael Phelps' bronze medal as a coaster.
—Even SportsCenter anchors have to play through injuries, whether it's a coffee burn or tripping in the hallway.
—Dan Patrick and Rich Eisen wait with Michelle Kwan to anticipate the scoring of their latest show.
—When Larry Beil walks through the front door of the building, he's greeted with an elaborate introduction from Michael Buffer.
—Alexi Lalas shows a different side by playing guitar and belting out the lyrics for "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore."
—After a tough show, Dan Patrick is cheered up by the piano-playing Grant Hill.
—There's a large traffic jam outside of the building, which may or may not be caused by Drew Brees and his extravagant float.
—Andy Roddick is furious that Stuart Scott won't call him by his nickname, and thinks the other A-Rod may have something to do with it.
—Chad Johnson discusses possible touchdown celebrations with a few SC anchors.
—Drew Rosenhaus negotiates with the clerk over the price of lunch for a few of his SC clients.
—Dan Patrick and Karl Ravech do some rookie hazing with newcomer Larry Beil.
—Some athletes, like Miami guard Dwyane Wade, love to edit their own highlights for the upcoming SportsCenter shows.
—The Red Sox mascot is distraught when he sees David Ortiz wearing Jorge Posada's Yankee hat.
—Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird make a list of "cutest boys in the office," and Scott Van Pelt isn't happy with his place on the list.
—With violence in sports escalating, some newscasters take a self-defense class.
—Scott Van Pelt uses the assistance of the recent Spelling Bee winner to help spell "Pujols."
—Jay Harris and Steve Levy enjoy the "Manny Being Manny" antics around the office.
—The Harlem Globetrotters play "keep away" from Charlie Steiner with one of his highlight tapes.
—Kenny Mayne reruns a video of a Ken Griffey Jr. home run to come up with a home-run catchphrase of his own.
Ten More Just for the Hell of It
—On a NASCAR ride along, Muggsy Bogues is concerned teammate Vlade Divac doesn't have enough room to stretch his legs.
—Greg Oden shows his versatility to some marketing executives.
—Chris Johnson is surprised at some of the negative backlash he receives from upset fantasy football owners.
—Karl Ravech has own theories on what happened with Curt Schilling's bloody sock.
—Jeff Van Gundy dons the gorilla body suit and dances around the RV while Marc Jackson is locked outside.
—Mr. Met and the family are driving down the highway with "Meet the Mets" blaring in the background (anything with Mr. Met is automatically funny).
—Mike Breen has a Home Alone flashback, thinking he left Kevin Durant at the restaurant.
—The Baseball Tonight crew reenacts the "there's no crying in baseball" scene from A League of Their Own.
—And finally, I don't know whether you can count Ron Burgundy auditioning for an anchor job or Scott Van Pelt's meltdown while filming a promo with Kenny Mayne as an actual "commercial", but they demand some spot on this list.
Okay, onto the list...
Scott Van Pelt borrows Carmelo Anthony's headband, but 'Melo is less than thrilled when it's returned in not-quite-vintage form.
To be fair, it's gotta be tough to pronounce "Jasikevicius" under the bright lights.
(Photo courtesy of wow-tube.ru)
Karl Ravech shows former Bullets center Gheorghe Muresan the new SportsCenter theme song, and the 7'7" Romanian can't help from dancing.
Before you know it, Ravech and Kenny Mayne are joining in. And if you weren't tapping your feet along, you're lying.
Bob Ley's telecast keeps getting interrupted by hiccups in the system, and the producers can't figure out the problem.
The reason? Dan Patrick is giving Kenny Mayne some golf tips, and the latter is using his new swing to hit a few golf balls into the satellite dishes outside of the Bristol complex.
(Photo courtesy of wow-tube.ru)
With the influx of high-definition TVs in the early 2000s, ESPN looked to keep things as up-to-date around the office as possible.
This one could have been a little funnier, but it gets bonus points for the crazed look that Darth Vader gives Lennox Lewis and Andy Roddick intimidating C-3PO.
(Photo courtesy of SportsBusinessJournal.com)
You might not consider that to be one of the ultimate sports rivalries, but the unspoken tension between the two sides is obvious.
"Why don't you work on another story we're not going to air?!?"
Ever walk around your house and apartment and notice the hollow spot in the wooden floor or those loose threads in the carpet that trip you up?
The floors at Bristol weren't working out for mascots and anchors alike, so they hired a new groundskeeper to re-do the carpets.
If you have a little brother, I'm sure you've gotten into a few fights over the years...especially if your little brother does everything you do.
Peyton and Eli Manning take this to a different level while touring Bristol. I think most people love this commercial because they all dream of kicking or hitting one of the Mannings...doesn't matter which one.
There weren't many animals that the late Steve Irwin didn't track. After watching a video like this, it's amazing that a stingray took him down.
R.I.P. Mr. Irwin. Animal Planet was always more exciting with you around.
For years, I've been classically trained (kind of like Pavlov's dogs) to dislike Dwight Howard on the court. He dominates against my team, he whines too much, and couldn't beat the hated Celtics this year...
...but off the court, especially the actions of certain superstars this offseason, he's easily one of the two most likable young players in the league (along with Kevin Durant).
For that reason, it's almost impossible to dislike this one with Dwight dressed as Clark Kent.
(Photo courtesy of dipity.com)
With so many egos in one small location, ESPN needed a wise mind to give life advice to their talented but sometimes troubled anchors.
So who better than the caddy for the most mentally focused athlete on the planet? That's right...Fluff!
His invariable wisdom still rings in my ears. And whenever I ask my boss for a raise, I make sure to use the wedge.
This commercial is so great because it rings true.
Doesn't it drive you nuts when you go to the mechanic for an oil change, and they won't let you leave because of some problems with an air filter, or a Johnson rod, or whatever the hell they say you need?
They can charge you for anything, and 98 percent of the population just has to go along with it.
Oh, and let's just say you should be glad that D.E. Jr. isn't your office technician.
(Photo courtesy of blingcheese.com)
Is it too late to hire this guy as a full-time bodyguard?
I never understand when people say that summer isn't their favorite season. The weather is beautiful.
The birds are chirping.
Everyone's in a more pleasant mood.
And you can cook outside whenever you want.
The anchors at ESPN love cooking out as well...especially Keith Olbermann.
In a vintage SportsCenter commercial, we find out how Lance Armstrong prepped for his dominant Tour de France runs from 1999-2005.
My dad would never forgive me if I didn't include this one.
The SportsCenter movie makes this work. Not only did I feel "en fuego" when watching it, but I still remember the first time I saw Billy the Marlin gaze at the two lovers with a look of outrage, horror, shock, and awe.
Fifteen years later, I'm still laughing.
We all could use a friendly face to brighten our day. In fact, I might start carrying around a picture of the San Diego Chicken with me whenever I need a laugh.
Nobody likes the rain. It slows down traffic, it puts a halt on all outdoor activities...and it even slows down production on SportsCenter.
Everyone had a starting-out job that they more than likely disliked.
Before he became one of ESPN's executives and handed out orders to guys like Keith Olbermann, Glenn Jacobs put a positive spin on his production assistant job, soaking up all of the knowledge laid forth by Craig Kilborn.
Ironically, I think Kilborn delivered dinner to my house last night.
In the '90s, swimsuit calendars were all the rage, thanks in part to the huge boom of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
ESPN wasn't far behind in the movement. And anytime the words "Charley Steiner" and "swimsuit" are in the same sentence, you know comedic gold is sure to follow.
Scroll to the 3:45 mark.
I've always wondered how the executives decided who would work best with whom.
How did they know Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick would become the headline act of the '90s?
How did they figure out the fantastic complementary aspect you get with a Scott Van Pelt-John Anderson pairing?
This little clip might give us a few answers...
Who would have thought that two NASCAR personalities would be ranked so highly?
In this clip, Rich Eisen distracts Bobby Labonte long enough for one of the mascots to hop in his ride and do donuts in the parking lot.
Would you really need to be bribed to do this, or wouldn't you just joyride in one of these cars for free?
(Photo coutesy of wow-tube.ru)
The props used here are hilarious. Seeing Carrot Top break out the "basket-bawl" and crying about how awful the Bulls while watching the stunned look on Ravech's face is one of the funniest three seconds you'll get on this list.
On an unrelated note, I'm a Cavs fan...does anyone know where I can get one of those?
Any sports fan who has had their team stolen out from under them (Seattle, Cleveland, and Baltimore, to name a few) knows the pain that comes from losing something you can never imagine living without.
Did you know (no pun intended) that ESPN used to broadcast out of California? It's true. But the bastards from Sacramento had to lowball them...
On the flip side, you can't turn down an abundant availability of fresh fruit and vegetables.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: nothing gets fans more excited than a free T-shirt giveaway. Nothing.
I'm not gonna lie, part of me wished this was real. And I was disappointed to learn that you have to wear pants when sitting at the SportsCenter desk.
Now we know why certain athletes and teams are seemingly always featured in the first 10-15 minutes of SportsCenter.
And somewhere, a certain showboating egomaniac watched this as a 10 or 11-year-old and got the idea to bribe ESPN into giving him his own one-hour soap opera called "The Decision." I don't want to name names.
There's no way you could expect ESPN Deportes to develop a sustained following without landing a star or two as hosts.
With so much talent on the roster, ESPN couldn't protect everyone. And John Anderson had to pack his bags...
(Photo courtesy of ColumbiaMissourian.com)
You think the galleries stop following Tiger when he's off the course? Think again.
Although now it's probably that many groupies on his tail (again, no pun intended).
(Photo courtesy of dipity.com)
It really is hard to see through that visor...just ask L.T.
(Photo courtesy of sal2009.com)
Anything can happen on live TV. The wrong image gets shown, equipment can malfunction...and mascot fights can break out.
In one of the biggest understatements ever written, tragedies are usually a bad thing.
One silver lining, however, is people can rally around that cause and bring out the true spirit of love and humanity.
ESPN anchors are no different. When only seven of 1,500 cases of traveling were called in 1996, they decided to make a difference.
Who says wrestling isn't a sport?
This always drives me crazy when watching the news. What do the anchors say to one another when the credits roll?
Thanks to this commercial, I'll always be convinced it's something derogatory and spiteful.
The scary part is that this was filmed in the mid-'90s; Clemens played 10 more years afterward.
Of course, Mr. Steroid might have helped him out a little. And maybe it helped with the rage as well. Still, most pitchers probably couldn't crack 90 throwing Jack Edwards out of a window.
Even some of the marquee athletes of today, like Derek Jeter and Stephen Strasburg, got their starts in the minor leagues.
And top draft picks like Hasheem Thabeet have been sent down to the D-League to further develop their skills.
Same goes with anchors. See what happens when Rich Eisen is dropped (scroll to the 3:11 mark).
Whether it's for the kids or a more mature crowd, SportsCenter is truly a show for all ages.
Watch them pay homage with an "Old Timers Day" theme, then break in rookies Keyshawn Johnson and Kobe Bryant with a "rookie camp."
After a long day, the last thing you want are microphones and cameras shoved in your face. I know that, if I burn a pizza or something at work, I don't need someone like Rachel Nichols asking me how I feel or what my thought process was.
But sometimes you have to be a role model and answer the questions in a professional manner. Kenny Mayne...well, at least he tried.
If Evander Holyfield ran a day-camp, I would send my kids there without even blinking.
Kids need to learn things like, "don't forget to lead with your jab."
Anything can happen during sweeps week—a special guest cameo, a show being aired live, or jumping the shark (literally, Fonzie jumped the shark during sweeps week).
See if you can figure out which four weeks during the year are sweeps when watching ESPN (hint: this is one of them). Just don't forget about journalistic integrity.
Any SC commercial with Mr. Met is gold. If you disagree, I don't want to know you.
This was long before the days of ESPN Deportes. As a kid, I think I believed they actually did this.
This video has one of the funniest exchanges in any SC spot:
Keith Olbermann: "Any experience in front of an audience?"
Bill Bradley: "Well I gave a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention."
Olbermann: "I meant a large audience."
(Photo courtesy of insidesocal.com)
No one will blame you if you find this a little odd or disturbing. I don't think anyone wants to rub cocoa oil on Charley Steiner's back.
At the same time, imagine the comedic values behind Steiner being on Melrose Place. Even if it were only for one episode. Alas...
No elaborate intro needed—I don't wanna jinx the perfect slideshow I have going.
I understand exactly what Kenny Mayne was going through. A few slides ago, the B/R editors started taking trips out to the mound to check on me.
And now they're getting a few other writers loose in the bullpen to come in and finish off these final five slides. I've got this, Skip...let me finish!
For some reason, whenever I think of SC commercials, this is the first one that pops into my head. I'm not saying it's the best or the funniest or most entertaining...but it's definitely memorable.
"Come on baby, don't be a lollipop!"
(I'm stealing the format of this line from Bill Simmons)...there's comedy, there's high comedy, then there's watching Stuart Scott stuff an eight-year-old's lay-up attempt and Kenny Mayne telling a kid to walk it off.
In the end, it's all about the kids.
It's a fine line determining whether or not a kid is ready for the big leagues.
For every Dwight Howard, there's a Kwame Brown.
For every Kobe Bryant, there's a DaJuan Wagner.
Case in point: Seth Hayes, who apparently is not a fan of Jimmy Key.
It's hard to believe that at one time, a team consisting of Juwan Howard, Cherokee Parks, and Pooh Richardson would be considered "ringers." But against the Bristol Plumbers, it's probably a significant advantage.
"Just play the game, plumber boy."
Follow Charley Steiner to freedom.
Hope you enjoyed the countdown; as always, let your voice be heard and comment on which of your favorites shouldn't have been absent.
(Photo courtesy of insidesocal.com)