One of the criticisms of ESPN’s coverage of the NFL is that they focus on too many off-the-field issues. Don’t know what we’re talking about? Just watch this video from 2008.
I don’t entirely blame ESPN for this issue. Sometimes television networks like ESPN need talking points to fill their air time. They do that by venturing into off-field stories, discussing trade rumors, or running anonymously-sourced stories. That sort of coverage can become annoying for traditional sports fans, but it’s a somewhat understandable trade-off for having comprehensive coverage. Luckily for us ESPN has realized that football sells itself and their coverage this year may try to reflect that.
Speaking with SI’s media columnist Richard Deitsch, ESPN senior coordinating producer for the NFL, Seth Markman, says the plan is to focus more on Xs and Os. “The last few years, the one area I wanted to focus on was getting a little bit back on the field,” said Markman. “Some of it was the last few years there were so many off-the-field stories that it took us in a lot of different directions. When I looked at the shows, I found that we could do a better job of getting people ready for their games. If that means being a little more Xs and Os this year, then I think we can do that.”
This will definitely be a welcomed change for most sports fans. I understand why ESPN has had a problem with this in the past. Other sports are different from football — there isn’t an inherent interest in day-to-day NBA, MLB, NHL or college basketball games — so off-field story lines are needed to heighten interest. With the NFL, people love it for what it is. Many fans are educated about their teams and follow the sport closely. B.S. stories aren’t needed. If the Worldwide Leader sticks to Markman’s words, all viewers will benefit.