It's no secret July is like the Sahara Desert when it comes to sports content for the general population.  As someone who lives and breathes this stuff, I'm not necessarily complaining because I have plenty of alternatives already.  Aussie Rules football is in the last third of its regular season.  The Gold Cup is taking place and the MLS season rolls on.  And of course you've got MLB and the Tour de France along with plenty of other options like NASCAR and F1.  The sports are out there, you just have to find them.

But this summer I've noticed something that seems a bit more prominent than usual in the July doldrums – ESPN's focus on football and basketball.  More and more, it seems like ESPN is doing everything in their power to shy away from daily MLB talk and focus on stories in sports that aren't active.  ESPN has spent much time on NFL offseason issues including the Aaron Hernandez arrest and Ron Jaworski's QB Countdown and a gluttony of time on NBA free agency, perhaps more so than ever before.  We're talking multiple days and multiple stories on Dwight Howard as well as multiple segments looking ahead to 2014 free agency and Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.  We're talking speculation about who will be free agents a year from now.

The NBA offseason seems to be the story du jour and ESPN is going full throttle by sending an on-site team to the Vegas Summer League starting today:

"ESPN will increase its coverage of NBA Summer League in Las Vegas this year with a full week of on-site SportsCenter segments and reports, July 12-18, from the Thomas & Mack Center and the COX Pavilion. ESPN NBA Insider Chris Broussard will provide on-site reports, starting this Friday, July 12. Sage Steele will host SportsCenter coverage in Las Vegas with ESPN NBA analysts P.J. Carlesimo and Tom Penn, starting on Monday, July 15. Carlesimo has previously coached NBA Summer League, while Penn, a former NBA team executive, will provide the GM’s perspective. SportsCenter segments from Las Vegas, July 12-18, will air throughout those days on ESPN networks." 

That's a lot of dedicated coverage for exhibition contests featuring what amounts to AAA and rookie ball rosters, although you'd have to imagine the majority of the discussion will still revolve around Dwight, Carmelo, and LeBron.  It's just what ESPN does.  The Thomas & Mack Center will just provide a different background.

While it might be nice to see some actual basketball covered and a little in-depth analysis of what's happening in Vegas, it should be startling for MLB fans to see ESPN devote so much coverage to exhibition basketball at the expense of the national pastime.  Maybe it's because none of the New York or LA or Chicago teams are in first place in the MLB standings and the Sawx-Yanks rivalry has cooled.  Maybe it's because small market teams like Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati are doing well.  And maybe it's just because this year's Vegas Summer League is that interesting.  I mean, who's not excited to see the likes of Jonny Flynn, Austin Rivers, and Nando de Colo?

Truthfully though, this isn't an ESPN problem.  It's a baseball problem.  Baseball has failed to captivate younger fans as seen in these depressing ratings numbers…

If ESPN doesn't see the ratings or interest there in talking MLB, especially in key demos, they will take their business elsewhere.  The NBA has been a hugely successful partner for ESPN and where the stars and ratings are, Bristol will follow.  That's exactly what's happening with ESPN's sudden interest in covering the NBA Summer League.


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