Sports Talk With The Fan

To start off this week, I want you to take a look at my new title. With the start of the REAL sports season (which occurs after the first college football game and the start of the NFL season), I am now adding the title of Sports Correspondent to my resume. As a result I will now be in charge of all the annual sports reports. My NFL report will be coming out soon (I am still waiting for one last review title to come in), with the first ever NHL report to arrive before the Caps' home opener on October 9th.

With that out of the way, I should get started with my commentary. ESPN and I have not had a wonderful relationship. It started off when I was in college, and during my senior year I had a part time job as a director of my college television station. Part of the job involved me videotaping and producing FSU's Bobcat basketball games, a position I enjoyed with a passion, and it led to me sending off my resume to several broadcast and cable stations.

Surprisingly the only contact that got back to me was ESPN. They wanted me to come up to their Bristol, CT offices for a possible internship position. I gladly accepted the offer, but I said I want to get my college degree taken care of first (keep in mind that this call was made in late March). Commencement comes and goes, and then I'm on an eight hour road trip to Bristol.

When I get to the ESPN offices though, I am told that I arrived too late to get the position. To think that I spend 16 hours round-trip to be told something that could easily have been told to me over the phone. I was immediately disgusted by the whole ordeal, and over time I started noticing some stuff about ESPN that made me glad I didn't get the position there.

I noticed that ESPN is biased.

Think about it. How many times have you heard Bill Clement say anything good about any team other than his beloved Flyers and Penguins? Or did you notice that they only show the Caps when they mess up, never when they do anything monumental (like reaching the Cup Finals? Remember that, Biased Bill?). Also when it comes to baseball, do you ever notice how many times "Ol' Man" Peter Gammons will kiss the Yankees' rears? Then again, when was the last time they ever broadcast a baseball game NOT featuring the Yankees, Braves, or Giants?

While we're at it, did you ever notice on Pardon the Interruption, how their lineup always had "Jordan" on there, while Jagr was nowhere to be found? Shows just how much Tony Kornhole-ser, who also writes for the Washington Post, cares about the Caps compared to his beloved Wizards? Or if you think their football broadcasting is bad enough, I got two words for you"MICHAEL IRVIN!

What was even funnier was how the ESPN license was poorly used in the gaming world. Many people would think that before Sega, only Konami used the ESPN license. This is not true. Sony had the license all the way back to the Genesis days (before PS1). Remember ESPN Xtreme Games when the PlayStation 1 was launched? Nothing says ESPN like a poorly done Road Rash wanna-be. What makes it even funnier was how Sony marketed the game after the ESPN deal ended, with the poorly conceived title of 1Xtreme (based after its equally bad or worse sequels, 2Xtreme and 3Xtreme.)

Konami then took over the ESPN moniker in 2000. Remember how in a commentary I wrote about when Konami "jumped the shark?" Well, this was the event that sealed it. With their ESPN"the games label, Konami released a trove of sub-par sports titles with all the ESPN titles (NBA 2Night, NHL National Hockey Night, NFL PrimeTime, as well as several sub par X Games titles.)

One factor of the X Games titles that cracks me up the most involved X Games Skateboarding. Their spokesperson, a four-eyed skaterat dork named Bob Burnquist, jumped ship from the Tony Hawk camp to plug a worthless title not equal to the first Tony Hawk, let alone Tony Hawk 3 which came out at about the same time.

At least if there was a good side to this it was the fact that Activision was able to replace Burnquist with a more acceptable character in Bam Margera of Jackass fame. (Now if only in that game Bam could use his board to pummel his dad like he always does in Jackass.)

I always said that Konami should not do sports, but stick with what they do best (2D Contra, Gradius, Castlevania, DDR, Metal Gear, etc. etc. etc.). In one of their smartest moves (also a sign of jumping back), they ditched the ESPN license, only to see Sega Sports pick it up, but since it arrived so late in the development of NFL 2K3 and NBA 2K3, we didn't really get to see full use of the ESPN license. Granted the menus and interface resembled that of the cable juggernaut, but it didn't offer a true ESPN presentation. In fact, the games were still under the Sega Sports label, but in small print, there is a message saying "Powered by ESPN."

The ironic twist was, despite the ESPN moniker, NFL 2K3 only sold 300,000 copies, in comparison to the three million copies that EA Sports' Madden 2003 sold. In the end, stores were offering NFL 2K3 for as little as $10.

The following year however led to major changes in Sega's lineup. Shortly after E3 (when all the games were still listed as the 2K4 series), Sega announced they will drop the Sega Sports brand and replace it with ESPN Videogames, promising full ESPN presentation and use of the license to full. They will keep the 2K4 at the bottom right of the cover to show that this is still the same critically acclaimed series from before.

From what I've seen so far with ESPN NFL Football this year, they have kept their word, but I will save full details until my annual football roundup.

In addition, ESPN NHL Hockey comes out this week as well, and it's going to have some tough competition against EA, who was smart enough to pick up hockey gods Black Box for their development team (as opposed to Kush Games who will develop ESPN NHL). I will be picking ESPN up, but I sure as heck will not listen to Clement's biased take on the NHL! I'd rather listen to Don Taylor's goofy commentary from NHL 2002!

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