With the first year anniversary of Fox Sports 1 approaching on Sunday, this week is FS1 Week at Awful Announcing. Over the course of the next seven days, we’ll analyze the highs and lows of the first twelve months at “the one for fun” and what is in the network’s future.
Today, Steve Lepore turns his attention to the standard-bearer at the network and delivers a decisive verdict on the first year of Fox Sports Live, and whether there’s any hope to right the ship.
In the wonderful Men’s Journal profile on the beginnings of Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports Live executive producer Scott Ackerson said this about the identity of the nascent network’s flagship show.
“ESPN has done a fantastic job of educating people in terms of sports,” says Ackerson, a gruff Fox veteran who’s never far from his e-cigarette. “Well, I don’t really want to teach. I want people to believe that they are eavesdropping on a conversation among really smart people who have been in the arena, who are talking sports, and who you’d really wish you could have a beer with.”
We’ve made a lot of hay in the past year taking Fox to task for their campaign that promised they’d be the “fun” network. Fact is, if quotes like this from Fox execs hadn’t painted them as the snotty little brother to ESPN’s older, “intellectual” nerd, we probably wouldn’t make half as much of it.
I really hope Fox Sports 1 looks at this as its biggest mistake when it takes stock of its first year in business, because it’s poisoned the perception of the network. Nobody was looking for a less educational version of ESPN. The past few weeks in sports media have more than proven that ESPN is capable of being stupid on their own. ESPN has Olbermann and Outside the Lines, but those two shows make up less than half of the air-time that First Take owns on the network.
Speaking of Olbermann (and Olbermann), the shocking announcement of his return to ESPN led to another Fox Sports 1 mistake. On the show’s introductory conference call, one executive referenced Keith’s nightly “Worst Person in the Sports World” segment. That exec said, almost as if he thought of it just a few seconds ago, that Fox Sports Live would do a segment on the “Best Person in Sports” each night.
That is one of the few promises that the show has kept in its past year, and it kind of sums up everything wrong with FS1’s three-hour nightly broadcast in that it has no real identity. “Hey, we’ve got this sardonic anchor duo giving you highlights over here, and this panel yelling from rejected First Take scripts over there, and now… let’s grind the show to a screeching halt with a sob story.”
The program’s momentum almost entirely killed at this point, the anchors then awkwardly shift into a comedy segment highlighting the errors made on the show that past hour.
Fox Sports Live spent its first year a lot like a freshman in college: it tried out a bunch of different subjects and focuses with little care for what those outside of it thought, appearing almost drunk on its own freedom most of the time. What the show absolutely wasn’t was a viable alternative to ESPN, and almost never did it portray a bunch of people having a conversation that I’d ever want to be a part of, nor have a beer with.
A run of shows about a month ago ran the gamut of problems that this series has: it started with a five-minute segment to open the show on a boxing program or UFC show that preceded it. Yes, UFC is very popular, but I’m pretty sure Charley Steiner was still on the network the last time ESPN did more than five minutes total in any individual SportsCenter on boxing. ESPN didn’t lead with a Yankees-Red Sox game that they aired on the Sunday night SportsCenter last week. Fox looked a little ridiculous there, even standing by a program that they own the rights to.
Not only did Fox Sports Live lead with boxing for a couple of nights, they also featured a fluff interview with Mike Tyson. Let me ask you this: when was the last time any ESPN program took Tyson seriously? In the past year, Tyson has appeared multiple times on various FS1 programs and even had a (technically well-made) documentary series on the network. The Hangover movies were the last of mass culture’s cycle through its emotions on Mike Tyson, we have no use left for him, and it makes the show look bad to be associated with him and using him as comedy. Some of the questions included: “What makes you cry?” and asking him to read famous movie lines. If that sounds like Fox Sports Live is recycling bits that are 12 years old from the Best Damn Sports Show Period, they are.