EVERYONE'S coming after ESPN: It's a cable cavalry looking to topple cable's superpower.
CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network, now Fox Sports 1 - heck, Al Jazeera is probably gearing up for a big stretch run against the boys from Bristol - are all arming themselves with as much talent and programming possible to pilfer some of ESPN's massive fun-and-games profit.
You think ESPN's going to sit back and let these newfangled merchants of tennis nip at its heels? Of course not. Rather, ESPN has decided it needs a bigger carbon footprint. The worldwide leader in sports has a new motto:
The sun never sets on the ESPN empire.
So while each of the media giants has created a cable sports entity to compete with ESPN, ESPN has responded by rolling out a whole new group of channels and products to add to its family of networks (which, at the moment, includes only ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes and ESPNews). And here they are:
ESPN 7-Eleven: The cable giant and the convenience mart - both 24-7 operations - team up to provide around-the-clock "SportsCenters" and Big Gulps at every location.
ESPN Berlin Wall: The iconic wall is rebuilt at its original site - funded largely by a new national cable tax - imbedded with 424 large-screen TVs, making it the world's largest outdoor sports bar. Projected to be Germany's No. 1 tourist attraction by 2025.
ESPN College: This will be an accredited, four-year program via video; in addition to a degree, every graduate leaves with a clicker, a $75-off coupon on a pay-tier cable package and a one-day pass to Disney World.
ESPN Apocalypse Now: Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless argue all day, live, until they drop or the world ends, whichever comes first.
ESPN Wakeup Service: Taking a two-year leave from "NFL Live," Trey Wingo will call you personally every morning to get your workday started.
ESPN 911: Police scanner dedicated to athlete crimes.
ESPN Radio Shack: The venerable retailer returns to its roots and, for the first time since 1982, sells radios. The catch? They're only programmed to ESPN Radio.
ESPN Carnival: In an unprecedented 30-year agreement, the famed Rio de Janeiro festival becomes a Disney property. Grand dame: Dana Jacobson.
ESPN ER: In conjunction with Obamacare, the federal government will subsidize the cost of ESPN running on a continuous loop in the admitting areas of 39 big-city hospital emergency rooms, in an attempt to raise the spirits of those suffering gunshot wounds, food poisoning and various other urban ills.
ESPN Ex: A network comprised entirely of voices that left the mother ship; Craig Kilborn and Max Kellerman are back!
ESPN Clock Radio: It wakes you up with, "Dah dah dah, dahdahdah!"
ESPN Boomer: The reality show sports fans have waited a generation for - a dedicated camera follows the network's signature voice all day at home, at work, at the gym and everywhere in between; can be accessed online, on your mobile phone or through a special Chris Berman App available only at Applebee's.
ESPN Mock Draft Resort & Spa: Year-round weekend retreats in the Florida Keys in which guests drink till they sink, party hardy and construct daily mock drafts supervised by Todd McShay and Chad Ford.
ESPN GPS: Featuring "SportsCenter" anchors of your choice, or for a premium, you can get Dick Vitale live directing you to your next destination. Follow the Major Deegan to the Triborough Bridge to the FDR and then take a right, baybeeeeeee!!!"
ESPN Chicken 'n Waffles: It just sounds right.
ESPN EZ-Pass: A new, dedicated no-cash toll-booth lane on Interstate 95 for anyone who watches ESPN at least 36 hours per week.
ESPN Tebow: It's inevitable and it cuts out the middleman.
Ask the Slouch
Q. Why is it that a baseball hit deep into the hole on two bounces, thrown to first for the out, perhaps dug out on a short hop, tossed around-the-horn "just because," is then finally returned to the pitcher to remain in play for the next batter BUT should a pitched ball "kiss" the dirt at home, the catcher immediately requests a new ball from the umpire? (Greg Arnold; Herndon, Va.)
A. I contacted the commissioner's office for comment on your inquiry, to which Bud Selig responded, "I believe we have the toughest testing program in sports."
Q. Keith Olbermann is back on ESPN2 at 11 p.m. ET weeknights next month - doesn't this just feel like another "Great Gatsby" remake? (Tony Dunn; Albany, N.Y.)
A. Over/under on Olbermann's first blowup with ESPN management: 11:17 p.m. ET opening night.
Q. Do you think that Joe Theismann's well-publicized malfunctioning prostate had anything to do with his preference for the "hurry-up offense" he used in his later years? (Bob Abrams; McLean, Va.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!