For the longest time, ESPN’s fans tuned in because of its stars appeals. From Colin Cowherd’s interesting takes, Bill Simmons’ everything, Skip Bayless’ celebrity debates, and the back-and-forth between Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden on Monday Night Football, there was no mistaking what kept fans coming back for more.
But right around the time ESPN decided to invest $125 million in its new state of the art building, instead of it’s personalities, it stopped being great. Huge mistake. The thought: the new set built around its premier show (SportsCenter), would breathe life back into its declining ratings. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened. Sports Illustrated went even as far as claiming SportsCenter was down 6% across the board and 12% at certain time slots from last year. NFL interesting games
Fans instant sports access through various outlets has pushed SportsCenter almost to irrelevancy.
For instance, why wait for a 10pm SportsCenter airing when you can easily access your teams/players’ status via Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else is available? Yasiel Puig designated to Triple AAA: don’t worry. Bleacher Report’s App will alert you. Fantasy points update for your running backs: DraftKings keeps you informed. Even the off-field incidents are covered better and quicker than SportsCenter can – Johnny Manziel spotted in disguise wearing sunglasses and a blonde wig: TMZ has you covered.
So when ESPN started scratching analysts from its Sunday NFL Countdown, it came as no surprise its main lead (Tom Jackson) would be included too. Upsetting at the time and still sad now, but not really a total shocker. Unfortunately for ESPN, what made Countdown so great, Jackson was the head of the cast and everything else fit perfectly around him. Sure there were hilarious bits from Cris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson, and Coach Ditka, Chris Mortenson and Adam Schefter delivering important updates, and Chris Berman tossing in his always catchy phrases, but everyone deferred to Tom Jackson’s analysis and judgment.
Making matters worse, Jackson doubled as the shows voice of reason. When Rush Limbaugh foolishly threw out an ignorant Donovan McNabb racial statement, “Sorry to say this, I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go. I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve.” Jackson was there to articulate an honest truth, “It was not our decision to have Rush Limbaugh on this show, his comments [about McNabb] made us uncomfortable. Rush Limbaugh is known for the divisive nature of his rhetoric. [He was] brought in to talk football, and he broke that trust. Rush told us the social commentary for which he is so well known would not cross over to our show, and he instead would represent the viewpoint of the intelligent, passionate fan. The fact that Donovan McNabb’s skin color was brought up at all was wrong.”
When news broke of the Adrian Peterson child abuse scandal, a level headed Jackson perfectly articulated what everyone was thinking but couldn’t really nail. “If you talk to most African-American men — and I know much of America is hearing this for the first time,” Jackson said. “I was whipped; a switch by my mom, a belt by my dad. What was done to me and what was done to that 4-year-old are different things. That is abuse of a child.”
He always knew what to say, when it really needed to be said.
So while ESPN transitions from a network of personalities to whatever it’s going to be now, just know it’s losing what made it really special, stars like Tom Jackson – quite possibly its best analyst and one of its greatest voices. I’m going to miss you Tom, Sundays wont be the same.
On to Part 3.
NFL’s Most Interesting 2016 Games (Part 3) NFL Interesting Games
5) Week 16: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (Saturday, December 24th at 4:25 pm ET on FOX)
Is there anything more football salivating than Cardinals-Seahawks Bad Blood Week 16 with a possible division title on the line? Things to pray for though: neither of these teams has the division wrapped up by now, a Carson Palmer potential pressure cooker letdown, a Russell Wilson-Ciara celebrity year letdown, and anyone who owns a Cardinals running back for fantasy purposes this year. NFL interesting games
4) Week 7: Houston Texans at Denver Broncos (Monday, October 24th at 8:30pm ET on ESPN)
Current winner of the Brock Osweiler free agency… the Denver Broncos. Osweiler didn’t just look bad, he looked horrible in that pre-season opener. Osweiler finished 4-7 for only 27 yards, 3.9 yards per pass average, one sack, and to add insult to injury tried to out-duel Blaine Gabbert for worst quarterback of the night title. BLAINE GABBERT!
Just know that the intrigue will still be there though. There isn’t much confidence seeping out of any Broncos quarterbacks right now either. Both defenses will dominate the game so it’ll be close. Well, unless Bill O’Brien still thinks JJ Watt is a running back. NFL interesting games
3) Week 2: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, September 18th at 8:30pm ET on NBC)
Here we have a preview of a potential playoff showdown and it’s on Sunday Night to spice things up. Just know that anything can happen. Both of the previous meetings have been split and the Vikings have third year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. You have to be excited for that!
And now that we’re on the subject of playoffs, doesn’t the NFC have more fascinating playoff matchups right now? Let’s compare: NFL interesting games
- Patriots + Brady + Belichick
- Steelers + Mike Tomlin + Roethlisberger + Antonio Brown
- Ravens + John Harbaugh + Joe Flacco
- Panthers + Riverboat Ron + Cam Newton
- Seahawks + Pete Carroll + Russell Wilson + Legion of Boom
- Cardinals + Bruce Arians + Larry Fitzgerald
- Packers + Aaron Rodgers + Clay Matthews
- Vikings + Mike Zimmer + Adrian Peterson
Maybe you can include Andrew Luck and the Colts, but when’s the last time you were really excited for an Indianapolis game? On the flip side, doesn’t a rejuvenated Cowboys and Romo fully tip the scale in favor of the NFC?
2) Week 13: Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, December 4th at 8:30pm ET on NBC)
A rematch of last year’s NFC Divisional round that almost saw a full Seahawks comeback from 31-0 only to finally fall short on a unsuccessful onside kick. This time though, both teams will be more even with the loss of Josh Norman and the re-signing of Brandon Browner. A great subplot for the game though is the over/under for Pete Carroll/Riverboat Ron gambles. We’ll put it at 2! Fake punt, not out of the question. Going for it on the opponent’s side on fourth down, totally doable for both teams! NFL interesting games
This would easily be the best Sunday Night Football game of the season if it wasn’t for… NFL interesting games
1) Week 10: Seattle Seahawks at New England Patriots (Sunday, November 13 at 8:30pm ET on NBC)
That’s right! What trumps a great Divisional Playoff rematch, a great Super Bowl rematch! Tom Brady defending his quarterback title belt against the quarterback who has the best shot at it: Russell Wilson. Pete Carroll trying his hand at out-chessing Belichick again. The Legion of Boom trying to execute a disappearing act using Gronk. Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels bringing their broadcasting A++ game. What’s not to love? Mark your calendars and set your DVRs, it’s gonna be a hell of a game! NFL interesting games