Perhaps there is hope yet for ESPN, SportsCenter

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Perhaps there is hope yet for ESPN, SportsCenter

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Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Bleacher Ball
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05: TV personality Sage Steele attends Bleacher Report’s ‘Bleacher Ball’ presented by go90 at The Mezzanine prior to Sunday’s big game on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Bleacher Ball)

As ESPN tries to put out the fire over its ridiculous Robert Lee fiasco, here’s some potential good news for sports fans who want to watch the network’s signature show for, well, sports. 

Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show, Sage Steele laid out her vision for the revamped SportsCenter: AM she will anchor with Jay Harris and Randy Scott beginning Monday. 

“I will always go back to, why did people turn us on when Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann were hosting? And why are they turning us on now? In my opinion, it is not to hear about Charlottesville. It’s not,” she said, referring to the site of violent, racially charged protests last week where a woman was killed. 

ESPN announced the new format in a press release earlier this week, but Steele’s version is a lot more appealing. 

“We will have some opinions, the three of us, but I don’t believe it’s about us. It’s about the games, it’s about the highlights. It’s about what’s coming up tonight. Let’s show some standings!” 

This runs counter to what has become prevailing wisdom, that showing highlights and results widely available to fans via the internet and now smartphones is redundant. 

Patrick, a Mason native who made his name as a SportsCenter host in the 1990s, offered that doing something unique with the highlights would be the key to drawing viewers. 

Steele replied with a salient point: “What they’ve seen on their phones and their devices is a 25-second clip. You’re usually not going to sit on your phone and watch a two-minute highlight. 

“So you’ll get a clip, but there is a lot more to every highlight. It’s a story. It’s not just a home run. It’s what happened before the home run. That’s’ what I think we’ll bring that’s different.” 

I like to bang on ESPN for its numerous editorial failures over the years, but this is an encouraging sign. 

Could the ESPN we used to know and love actually make a comeback? 

The biggest question might be how long the network is willing to wait and see if this “new” format works. 

As I wrote when the network let go a large group of editorial staffers while keeping its high-priced carnival barkers, ESPN’s addiction to opinion has been drowning it since nearly the turn of the century. 

I myself quit watching SportsCenter when the highlights were made second fiddle to “Coors Light Cold, Hard Facts” and various other opinion segments many years ago. 

In the end, I would say analysis is good but arguing for the sake of arguing – at least on a news show – gets old fast. 

I guess we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed they get it right this time, but if not, well, I’ve already learned to live without SC anyway. 

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