Thursday, January 29, 2009

What's number one in sports programming?

Sports media is a crowded department. There are the sections in the newspaper, countless numbers of magazines, talk radio stations, and 24-hour television programming. You have the choice of mainstream news or niche news. You can tune into local sports action, national coverage, and with today’s technology even international coverage. For me, however, one program stands above the rest: “Pardon the Interruption” on ESPN.

Hosted by veteran writers Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, the show is full of information, knowledge, and entertainment. For those who have yet to watch the show, Wilbon and Kornheiser tackle breaking topics from the day in sports. They get a certain amount of time to discuss or argue about the topic. When the buzzer sounds, it’s time to move on to the next subject. This aspect of the show is particularly appealing to me. Having a time limit on each subject allows them to talk about other, less dwelled on topics that occur during the day. Variety is the spice of life, and “PTI” provides it. I recall a time a couple of summers ago watching a 90 minute edition of “Sportscenter”. Over the entire episode, three news stories were covered: Michael Vick’s arrest on charges of dog fighting, Barry Bonds and the steroids investigation, and the Tim Donaghy scandal. Sure, these were all big stories, but there was more that happened during the day. I got tired of hearing about these three stories and these three stories alone. You won’t ever see that happen on “PTI”.

“PTI” is good sports journalism. Wilbon and Kornheiser definitely do their homework. They are able to discuss each of the subjects given to them in length and detail. They can intelligently argue and defend their side of arguments and their opinions. Even if the argument gets loud, it is only because they are passionate about the side they are taking, not to drown out the other person. They are humorous and entertaining in their discussions as well.

One thing people may say is that the hosts are biased. Wilbon is infamous for supporting his hometown Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls. The same goes for Kornheiser and his support for the New York Knicks and his longtime friend, coach Larry Brown. My response would be what real sports fan doesn’t have bias? You get into sports journalism because you are such a big fan. Wilbon and Kornheiser are honest about their biases. They don’t hide them, but they make sure that they don’t get in the way of their reporting. They are fair to everyone and everything they cover.

At the end of the day, “Pardon the Interruption” is the class of sports programming. With coverage of a variety of subjects, both mainstream and niche news, honesty, passion, entertainment, and pure knowledge, it is the best place to go to get your sports fix. You’ll be glad you allowed them to interrupt your normal coverage.

"Pardon the Interruption" clip about bloggers. Video from Youtube via ESPN.