Too boring, too straight-forward, not creative enough--it isn't lost on us that ESPN's SportsCenter sounds just like a dying newspaper or a sad aggregator. We know how just to fix that, and it starts with taking a page from their Canadian counterparts' book. "ESPN's SportsCenter which debuted some three decades ago, grew into a cultural icon in the U.S., spawning network superstars and sister broadcasts around the world," writes The Wall Street Journal's Will Connors. "But critics have complained it has lost some of the panache of its heyday in the 1990s. Meanwhile, a handful of competitors offering up their own sports-highlights broadcasts have piled in."
Hmmm, doesn't that sound familiar? Though Connors doesn't mention the ratings, which seem to fluctuate with major sports events (ahem, Tebow), his version of success seems to hinge on the aspects that made SportsCenter an indelible part of the 90s--creativity, point of view, silliness-and how the show's Canadian cousin, SportsCentre, is doing all that. "It is a loopier, freer-flowing affair—with substantially more hockey coverage—than its bigger American cousin. And it is wildly popular north of the border," writes Collins.
And that's what audiences like. "There are plenty of shows to see your sports and get the scores and no funny business," said SportsCentre co-anchor Dan O'Toole told Collins. "That's not a show we want to watch. We go about making a show we and our buddies would want to watch."
If you think about it, it sort of makes sense if you think of SportsCenter like an aggregator. It's not like its anchors are reporting first-hand on the U.S. Open or the NBA championships--they're compiling and giving you the clips and news they think is the most useful. And when the show first popped up, it disrupted the way we'd normally get our sports news which, at the time, was usually at the end of nightly news programs or in our morning papers. But now, if you really wanted results, you could simply hop on the Internet, flip the channel to a Fox Sports competitior, or just watch the scores scroll on ESPN2 ... or you know, just watch the event. And in a sense, that's why O'Toole and his co-anchor Jay Onrait's brand of awkward creativity and inside funny jokes work, and why SportsCenter in the Olbermann and Kilborn era worked.
We looked at what Collins and critics love about SportsCentre so much, and compared them to some of our favorite news sites, and here's what we found:
"Many of their comedic stunts can seem random to the uninitiated."
Case in Point:
Lesson Learned: Run with your inside joke.
"The U.S. version of the show features a straightforward top 10 plays-of-the-day feature. In Canada, a recent show included a Top 10 Crying Athletes segment."
Case in Point:
Lesson Learned: Crying athletes are really funny. But the real lesson here is figuring out that amazing highlights aren't the only way to present a sports story, or any story for that matter.
"Many gags, though, have roots on the field"
Case in Point:
Lesson Learned: Jokes make the news fun, as long as the jokes pertain to the news.
Who Else Does This Well: Former Gawkerer Maureen O'Connor's trolling of Business Insider's Henry Blodget
"Occasionally O'Toole and Onrait are asked to rein in the comedy."
Case in Point: We're not sure.
Lessons Learned: Sometimes, no matter who you are, your awesome joke might be too clever by half.
Of course, all these things aren't magic bullets and won't guarantee that we'll be tuning in every night. But from the sound of it, it sure doesn't sound like we're missing anything that we couldn't already find.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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