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November 23, 2014

TV Squad Ten: Top Ten ESPN shows from worst to first

by Allison Waldman, posted Nov 24th 2009 2:02PM
espn_logo_redIt seems like ESPN has been around forever, doesn't it? Can you even remember a time when there hasn't been an ESPN to turn to for a score or breaking news or updates? I can't. But along with the news ESPN provides, the ESPN brand has expanded to include a bunch of networks, a magazine, restaurants and lots of tchotchkes. But let's just look at the TV shows, shall we? One note: SportsCenter is not included because it's more of a daily news show as opposed to the programs that are more talk and game-oriented. Here's the top ten ESPN created shows, from the worst to the first.

10. Sports Nation
This is a relatively new daily show on ESPN with radio talker Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle co-hosting. It's supposedly an interactive program with surveys that include the fans, but all the bells and whistles can't change the fact that Cowherd is an obnoxious know-it-all that dominates the conversation – when they have one. It's new and shiny, but it's a mess.

9. Stump the Schwab
The Schwab is Howie Schwab. This show isn't in production anymore, but that doesn't stop ESPN from broadcasting it. Schwab was ESPN's first statistician and a trivia expert. Every game was like David and Goliath. Goliath won practically every time, making for a lousy game show. It was simply too difficult.

8.
Jim Rome Is Burning
Jim Rome is a raging egomaniac, and his half-hour daily show is a mirror. He's got his own favorite phrases, he repeats his bits from radio, and he divides the news into bits and pieces so that nothing gets discussed with any depth. Rome isn't burning, it's ashes.

7.
Mike and Mike in the Morning
There was a time when I really enjoyed Mike and Mike in the Morning, but it's devolved into a shtick-fest. Mike Greenberg is Tony Randall and Mike Golic is Oscar Madison. They're a comedy team or they're The Odd Couple. Occasionally they obsess over sports, but too much time is all about hit-and-run guests, parody songs and quibbling between the stars. Also, it started as a radio show and still looks like one.

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First Take
Once called Cold Pizza, First Take now covers a lot of the stories in SportsCenter, but goes deeper. They have some talking heads, including the snarky Skip Bayless. He's like Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) on Lost In Space, easy to hate. The best part is 1st and 10, where specific, current topics of the day are debated.

5. Around the Horn
Recently, 30 Rock mocked this show, calling it Sports Shouters. Around the Horn is a ridiculous contrivance of a show, but it's still fun. The idea of scoring the argument is completely subjective, and in fact, it's all window dressing for what is really a decent debate among professional sports columnists who know the subject matter very well. If you can get past Woody Paige and Jay Mariotti winning too often – and the volume set to 11 – it's enjoyable.

4. Top 5 Reasons You...
This is one of the programs that only ran a couple of years, like Stump the Schwab. This one, however, I'd love to see revived. Brian Kenny hosted and the idea was to take a particular subject and present the arguments in an intelligent way. For instance, the top five reasons you can't blame Bill Buckner for Boston losing the World Series. Another one took the blame off Bartman. To me, this was a creative, entertaining show. I wish they'd bring it back.

3.
Outside the Lines/E: 60
These two share a spot as the most comprehensive, serious sports shows on the ESPN nets. Bob Ley is one of the two original anchors still with ESPN, and he's remained a strong presence with Outside the Lines. E: 60 is the new, magazine style program that tries – and succeeds – in doing 60 Minutes type stories.

2.
Pardon the Interruption
Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser were sports columnists at the Washington Post when PTI began in 2001. As Wilbon tells it, he and Tony would have these debates about sports in the newsroom and somebody saw them doing it one day and told them it belonged on TV. They're kind of like Siskel and Ebert, only instead of talking about movies, Wilbon and Kornheiser go over the daily sports headlines. Like Gene and Roger, Mike and Tony are very entertaining just talking to each other.

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1.
The Sports Reporters
On Sunday mornings, while CBS, NBC, CNN and ABC are presenting political talk by pundits and news pros, ESPN offers the best sports talk show of the week, The Sports Reporters. Don't tell me that the columnists on this show are akin to Around the Horn. They're not. Comparing The Sports Reporters to Around the Horn is like comparing Meet the Press to The Hollywood Squares. John Saunders hosts the civilized, smart discussion, usually with reporters like Mitch Albom, Mike Lupica and Bob Ryan. Its not flashy or high-tech; it's just very thought-provoking and good television.

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Brad

PTI would be great if Tony Kornheiser had a different sidekick. Michael Wilbon is a Kevin Blackistone clone with a different show. They are both racists and biased in their reporting. Let's just say they really see things in BLACK and WHITE. Mike & Mike is (are) entertaining because they don't take themselves too seriously. Colin Cowherd may be the most insightful of all the talking heads on the radio. I think people find him abrasive because he has a tendency to be right. Stump the Schwab and any other shows in reruns shouldn't even be considered in this dialogue. And being the sexist pig that I am (my wife is laughing hysterically) anyone by the name of Allison has no credibility in writing this post.

November 29 2009 at 4:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lung Cancer

The Sports Reporters is my favorite program.
http://www.cancerlung.org

November 28 2009 at 9:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Justin

No Kiana's Flex Appeal? THAT was the best show ESPN ever had.

Cheap Seats second.

November 25 2009 at 8:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard Lawler

I love when I catch sports reporters so I can see Mitch Albom chewing some athlete out for a lack of integrity and I get to remember why I never read his columns.

November 25 2009 at 7:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
C C

Does NFL Primetime count as an actual show? Chris Berman and Tom Jackson recapping each Sunday's action? I remember when they had Pete Axthelm as the third man in the late 80's before he died.

November 24 2009 at 7:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
buckeyenut

How can you not add College Gameday-football edition-as one of the best. Chris Fowler,Lee Corso, & Kirk Herbstreit are the best! They have a great chemistry,especially the Coach & Herbie. it did kinda loose something when they added Desmond Howard,but he is not on the entire show.College Gameday Final is another good one. I so hate Mark May but love watching Coach Holtz put him in his place time & time again.

November 24 2009 at 5:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jay

Colin Cowherd is the single most annoying person on ESPN.

Think about that for a second. That's one hell of a title to claim on someone.

November 24 2009 at 5:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Garrett

A correct Top Ten with Sports Reporters at the top. Always love each of their final words. PTI might be too high. Yes it is one of its biggest shows but Tony and Mike tend to have similar opinions about the favorites in sports and don't tend to bring any thought to the table of sports reporting. As GL said I think they have been caricatures for years.

November 24 2009 at 4:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
GL

The problem with most of the shows on ESPN is the people on them. Concepts that seem great fail miserably when enacted by the likes of Mitch Albom, Jay Mariotti, Cowherd, Bayless and Jim Rome.

Mike and Mike were fresh and fun years ago, but are now a sad copy of themselves. It's often Mike and Some Fill In Host and the actual sports discussion has become very short bursts mired in a giant mess of garbage. The appearances of Dick Vitale are an abomination and exhibit everything that stinks about M&M now.

PTI is usually solid, but I fear the two hosts will morph into caricatures of themselves as Mike and Mike did.

November 24 2009 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Frank

Sports Reporters used to be what you described.
Now it's just a pulpit for douchebags like Lupica and Albom. (and it's become more "Around the Horn"ish by the week... I miss Dick Schaap)


Also, NFL Matchup show.
Smartest football discussion anywhere.
(Too bad it's on at 4:00 AM...)

November 24 2009 at 3:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Frank's comment
GL

I agree. Albom is all bombast and very hard to watch.

November 24 2009 at 3:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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