By now you’ve about the tragic death of Indy car driver, Dan Wheldon. While certainly major news, it was no easy decision in Bristol on how to report the news on a jam packed Sunday Night SportsCenter.
To ESPN and SportsCenter’s credit, they opened the week’s most revered edition of the highlight show jumping right into Wheldon story and staying with it for a full eleven minutes. Solid coverage from multiple angles including a very nice tribute by Jeremy Schaap. Halfway through SportsCenter, another well done six minutes of coverage surrounding Wheldon’s death.
Now the knee jerk reaction from our readers might be “So what? That’s what they should have done.” While I certainly think it was the smart way to go, it was definitely not a clear cut decision.
Sunday SportsCenter during football season is an institution. You have “The Blitz”, Sunday Conversation, pumping MNF, an elimination game in the NLCS, the first BCS standings, major injury news (Jason Campbell and Marcus Lattimore), QB benchings (Grossman and McNabb), and some interesting stories of the day like the Harbaugh and Schwartz handshake.
Multiple guests are slated to do segments, some of the better anchors (Levy and Cohn) are on hand, and there is just a massive amount of ground to cover. In a nutshell, SportsCenter is ESPN’s flagship and Sunday Night SportsCenter during football season is quintessential piece of non live event programming the network has.
Indycar racing is not a first tier sport in America. To be honest, I don’t really know if it’s even in the second tier. The vast majority of our readers and general sports fans probably could have not have told you heading into today where today’s race was held, who won this year’s Indy 500, or name 5 Indycar drivers.
ESPN could have skimped on the coverage here if they chose to do so and it wouldn’t have been a big deal. Instead of the first eleven minutes and six more, they could have maybe done something like two five minute segments on the death and not opened with the story.
With all that was going on in the world of sports, as long as the coverage of Wheldon’s death was sensitive and substantial, there really wouldn’t be any blowback cutting the corners surrounding the story.
For all the crap we and others out there give The Worldwide Leader, credit to ESPN here for not marginalizing this story and covering the tragedy with vigor. Certainly not ideal to condense an overloaded SportsCenter by more than 25%, but a smart decision that showed integrity and compassion.
Of course our thoughts and prayers go out to Wheldon, his family, his teammates, and the Indycar racing community.