First we should start out defining exactly what the letters stand for then we can follow a true sports lover in his quest for divulging how this network has evolved into a pastime. Entertainment and Sports Programming Network provides sports programming and entertainment for individuals who enjoy the thrill of victory, and, alas, the agony of defeat. People can watch events for much less money than going to the actual game and in the comfort of their own homes, or friends’ homes. Now let’s turn to the interview with our sports enthusiast.
What started out as an idea to broadcast local Connecticut sports, turned from using new technology of satellite communication in 1979 and became a ground-breaking sports network rivaling ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The first program aired on September 7, 1979 at 7:00 P.M. EST with only 30,000 viewers. The first ‘Sports Center’ words spoken by the host, Lee Leonard, were, “If you love sports…if you really love sports, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to sports heaven.”
ESPN partnered with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to show college basketball games, while growing to show all college sports in addition to their championship games. Then in 1982 ESPN entered the world of professional sports starting with the National Basketball Association (NBA). Even the United States Football League (USFL) enjoyed some of its short-term success due to games on ESPN in 1983 and 1984. Yet another ground breaking change began in 1985 when ESPN started the 28/58 sports score roundup at 28 and 58 minutes past each hour. This was a condensed run-down of scores for various sporting events.
One of the biggest nights in football, the National Football League (NFL) debuted on Sunday night in 1987 and started an explosion of sport shows. ESPN in turn broadcast the NFL draft, pre-game shows, team news conferences, and highlight shows. Now ESPN televises the baseball All Star game and related events, the Heisman Award for the best college player, NASCAR and Formula I racing, golf, horse racing, bowling, go-kart racing. You name the sport and it’s probably been on ESPN.
Then 1990 brought Major League Baseball (MLB) with a $400 million contract to air Sunday night baseball. The NFL contract changed in 2006 bringing Monday Night Football from ABC to ESPN. Jon Miller and Joe Morgan became the longtime voices for the games on ESPN.
Other professional sports such as hockey and soccer have made their mark on ESPN over the years. In fact there was so much sports to broadcast, new ESPN channels have come into being, e.g. ESPNRadio (1992), ESPN2 (1993), ESPNews(1996), ESPN Classic (1997) and ESPNU (2005) which focus solely on college sports.
Nowadays ESPN will probably feature any sports event. Even “extreme” sports events have become popular because of ESPN. Have you ever watched a snowboarding event? Those guys are some kind of athletes!
The most watched program to date on ESPN was the 2011 BCS National Championship game which aired on January 10, 2011 with an estimated audience of 27.3 million viewers. And now ESPN broadcasts sports 24 hours a day, seven days a week in 16 languages in 200 countries. Not bad for a shabby little sports network in Bristol, Connecticut struggling for financing in 1979.
Short of using his name and the sources of facts he established after our conversation, these are his thoughts. But the one thing you are not privy to are the lights in his eyes as he recollects his personal stories in between the history. You see, he lived this history. Like so many others, ESPN provides a diversion in a scrambled world, while at the same time the values projected on the fields and in the lives of the players bring to mind the reality of human nature and its failings. But for now, let’s just enjoy the game!
Garrett Payne is a sports enthusiast and avid blogger. He enjoys writing about anything related to sports including his favorite players & the rules of the different sports.
Photo Credits: Wikipedia
Video Credits: ESPN