IT'S HARD for me to say this, but I'm not such a fan of ESPN anymore.
I find myself zipping past Channel 26 on my Suddenlink lineup more than heading toward it these days. And it's a shame, really.
Oh, the station provides plenty of interesting games and updates, and SportsCenter (in small doses) is still the place to go for highlights. But other than that - and especially during the daytime - it's becoming a place to avoid, unless you like mind-numbing babble.
If anything's ever the undoing of the Worldwide Leader in Sports, it's going to be its penchant for over-analysis.
It wasn't always like that. It used to be one of the few stations locked into my remote.
When ESPN debuted in 1979, one of my friends had it on his cable system in Wheeling, and I used to go to his house just to watch it. It didn't matter what was on. In the days before computers and 24-hour television (or radio), there was no such thing as heads talking too much and sports overload. Your best source for information then was how fast you could read the newspaper or a sports magazine.
At the time, ESPN was nirvana. An honest-to-goodness sports station right there whenever you wanted it. You didn't have to wait for the 11 o'clock news to find out the baseball or football scores that day.
We wound up watching things like Michigan State football game replays on Wednesday afternoons, and we didn't care. It was so new, so refreshing.
Through the years, as ESPN grew (after coming dangerously close to going under at one point), it got on more and more cable systems, got more and more live events and upgraded its lineup of sports, eventually procuring game contracts for all four pro leagues (but has since dropped the NHL). It went from underdog network to overlord.
But somewhere along the line in recent years, it's regressed. Now I know, with all the different networks under ESPN's domain, there's a lot of programming hours around the clock to fill, and a lot of niches it tries to cover, but it's really getting harder to watch.
For example, I like to put something on TV while I'm folding laundry or doing chores around the house, but it's gotten to the point where I can't watch ESPN or ESPN2 during the day because it's like listening to the same song over and over. And not even a new verse, mind you, just repeating the chorus ad nauseum.
Earlier this week, I popped in and out of the room and was switching between those two channels at three different times - around noon, 1 and 2 p.m. At that very moment, either ESPN or ESPN2 was airing something about Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez - Jets quarterbacks and the mothership's new grinding axe.
And that came in a very small window of time. Makes you wonder how often one of their channels touches on the subject, say, over the course of one day. How many different ways do they try and twist it? How many analysts do they throw into the fray?