This week we’ll do something new at Awful Announcing – a series that is a great intellectual endeavor for us that will put fear into the hearts of network executives around the country. In this series, we’ll imagine a scenario where we are put in charge of each of the major sports networks for one day with the mandate that we can change five things at the network. The five things can be anything… but they have to be somewhat based in reality and possible to implement. Hey, we’re realists here, no monkey’s paws allowed.
So what are the five changes we would make if AA was king for a day… at ESPN.
1) Replace First Take, obviously, but with what?
Forget being king for a day at ESPN, if I were king of America the first thing I might do is get rid of First Take and ban it from ever coming back. Or, maybe I would make Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless trade places with Alaskan Bush People… one of the two.
Given that First Take is one of the absolute worst shows on television and a total stain on ESPN’s brand, the easy decision is to get rid of the program and the entire “Embrace Debate” concept that has polluted the Bristol waters for the last several years.
But the more difficult decision is what do you replace it with? For all its critical and ethical flaws and all the controversy the show creates that drags ESPN down with it, it draws ratings. How could we at ESPN still find that same ratings success by not selling our souls to fake sports debate?
Believe it or not, I’m going to turn to cable news for the answer. Yes, sometimes two wrongs can make a right!
Remember in 2010 when Glenn Beck was *gulp* a cultural phenomenon? Beck left Fox News in 2011 to do his tinfoil hat thing on his own and Fox News replaced him with a seemingly random collection of four conservatives and one liberal and created a roundtable discussion show called The Five until they could find something more permanent. Then something truly unpredictable happened – The Five became a hit.
Agree or disagree with Fox’s politics all you want, but you can’ t argue with the fact that The Five has been a huge success for Fox News. In fact, it’s routinely one of the highest rated shows in all of cable news. So why couldn’t a sports network duplicate that formula on a daily basis?
Here’s what I would do at ESPN2 every morning – put five of your most compelling personalities on air and have them talk about the biggest sports stories of the day. It’s that simple. And because it’s not politics, and not mano a mano, you can remove the carnival barking aspect that makes First Take so flagrant.
ESPN has dozens, if not hundreds, of personalities that would love to have the opportunity to branch out into a platform where they could share their opinions on a stage like that. And here’s where we could take it a step further – ESPN could and should continue to make a push for more diverse voices to be heard. Take a look at the new ESPN Radio lineup and you’ll hear voices that aren’t often heard on the national sports scene – Spain & Prim, Bomani Jones, Freddie Coleman, even Marty & McGee. There’s such a richness in diverse voices there that putting it all together could represent fascinating, interesting, compelling television.
I know I’d much rather watch Sarah Spain, Bomani Jones, Adnan Virk, Michelle Beadle, and Pablo Torre have a fresh conversation every morning than Skip Bayless screaming about Tim Tebow for the 98,000th time.