Solochek: Sports network larger than life

first_imgSports are like drugs. They can be very addicting.That is why, to most people, the advent of ESPN is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It is a TV network that has sports on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can see all your favorite teams’ scores, highlights from past games and even get the occasional quip about Charlie Weis’ waist size.However, with its rise in popularity since it first went on the air in 1979, the network has grown beyond what it originally intended to do. At first, it provided America with more than mainstream sports. Fans could watch everything from bull riding to rugby. In a sense, it took the place of the Wide World of Sports and broadened the horizons of sports fans across the nation.Now, the network has expanded its reach. It is the primary outlet for all sports news in both broadcast and print. It not only has “SportsCenter” to replay the day’s highlights and scores but also has a multitude of programs pertaining to specific sports, such as “Baseball Tonight” and “NFL Live.” The ESPN conglomerate also added a magazine to compete with established Sports Illustrated.The network does not only disseminate news but also provides opinions as well. Every weekday afternoon, the network devotes an hour and a half of its programming solely to opinion shows. Even if all three shows present the same opinion, people can’t get enough of grown men and women yelling at each other, trying to prove whose opinion is more relevant.Although the network does provide us with all the sporting information we will ever need, its domination over the market has led to a problematic situation in sports journalism. Mainly, the network has become so influential and overbearing, it has gained the ability to decide what is news and what is not in the world of athletics.One of the main examples in which the network made news out of nothing was any instance involving Cincinnati Bengals’ embattled wide receiver Chad Johnson. With every new touchdown celebration, list of defensive backs in his locker and every bit of trash talk, ESPN was there. In fact, during the 2005 season, the network would announce rumors dispelled by those around Johnson about what his next move would be. The speculation would then dominate all the shows on the network for the next few days.Johnson’s escapades took the headlines by storm this year when he legally changed his last name to “Ocho Cinco,” which comes from his jersey number, 85. Again, the headlines were everywhere, from TV to the magazine to the website.Other than getting into a discussion of Johnson’s character issues, what would have happened if ESPN had totally ignored all of the trash talking and “Hi Mom” sign waving he had done in the previous year? Would anybody care?In an essence, ESPN made the Chad Johnson issue an issue. Every week after he put on another show for the media, at least one segment of Sports Center would be devoted to Johnson. Furthermore, each of the “talking heads” shows the network airs each day had a segment on it. ESPN not only created the news, with the use of supposed experts on the situation, but it told us what to think about the news.ESPN’s dominance over the sports news market has not only given them control over what is news and what is not, but also makes it harder for other opinions to be heard. With every new show and broadcast, they are pushing out other competing news sources. Shows on Fox Sports Net and other local networks do not even stand a chance against the wide expanse of ESPN’s base.There are several dangers in having a network as powerful as ESPN. If a station has complete control over the news, they will then have unprecedented power over the thoughts and beliefs of the American people. Furthermore, they can also influence other organizations with the information they decide to share versus what they do not.Their power over other press organizations has increased over the years as well. For a long time, to add to the credibility of their reports, the network has attracted local sports writers from across the nation to be part of their many talk shows. However, by luring writers such as Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun Times and Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated, the network has been able to use their popularity for their own success, sometimes taking journalists away from their respective print publications. Losing writers with the credibility Mariotti and Reilly had takes away some of the power the publication had. Furthermore, it transplants their fame and influence to the network which captivates the largest audience.Although ESPN does dominate the sports news market, it is hard to quit it. Without it, it would make getting our daily dose of highlights and scores a lot more difficult. But until we find an alternative to the ESPN fix, it will be hard to alleviate our addiction.Ben Solochek is a senior majoring in journalism and history. If you want to start a new sports station, e-mail him at

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