Sports

Ranking major sports networks from most elitist to Fox Sports

Prestige and journalism shouldn’t go hand-in-hand together. Sure, there are outlets with enough history and money to have ethics departments, fact-checkers, and paying subscribers, but the omnipresent tier — the ones controlling the rights to the big sports — are cost-cutting corporate slugs like the rest of the media.

This being TV, with networks hyper-aware of their perceptions, it’s funny how much money, time, and effort they put into presenting themselves to the world. You can tell who between NBC, ESPN, and Fox really thinks highly of its coverage, who equates ratings to class, and who has Urban Meyer on its Big Noon Kickoff show.

Seriously, why doesn’t a producer say something to Urban about his sunglasses? You’d think the goal would be to make him look like someone who wouldn’t goose you at a steakhouse after a few scotches.

So with the news that Jac Collinsworth is out as the voice of Notre Dame, and Amazon paid $150 million for one playoff game, let’s rank the notable networks from most elitist to Fox Sports.

Side note: I’m going to omit league-sponsored participants like NFL Network and NBA TV because I may save those for a separate group of rankings depending on how this does and how well I want to perform on this month’s scorecard.

NBC Universal

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Jettisoning one prodigy for another nepo baby speaks volumes. As does announcing that your NFL playoff game on Peacock was the most streamed live bullsh*t of all the bullsh*t pro sports leagues have ever put behind a streaming service’s paywall. Congrats, you made Kansas City-Miami a pay-per-view.

But you’d expect this from the network that airs the English Premier League, the Olympics, and Notre Dame football. Heads up, turtlenecks and noxious J-school grads make your coverage pretentious, not prestigious. (No ill will toward Rebecca Lowe though.)

Apple

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You forgot about Apple didn’t you? They have MLB and MLS, so technically they qualify. The thing about both of those products is people only inconvenience themselves if Aaron Judge is chasing Roger Maris or Lionel Messi is actually on the pitch for Inter Miami.

The reason I call it elitist is because everything Apple does is elitist. They have live sports out of boredom as much as a need for more revenue. If it wasn’t American soccer, it would’ve been jai alai.

ESPN/ABC

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If you’re running a scam to get on-air talent fake sports Emmys, and call yourself the Worldwide Leader despite having six random Europeans constitute your soccer coverage, you need to work on your self-awareness. I don’t care how many Northwestern alumni are on NBA Countdown, or if Doc Rivers’ family work vacations in Bristol, Pat McAfee and Stephen A. Smith run this bitch like Donald Trump runs Fox News.

Does that mean Mad Dog is sports Sean Hannity? Yes, yes, it does. Don’t equate paying for access to athletes, nor fancy touchscreens and studios to an industry standard.

Amazon

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Uncle Bezos is new money through and through, and uses power and influence to try to sway viewers into believing his cheap Amazon knockoff is on par with the genuine article. Like a Prime phone charger that craps out in three weeks, what we were promised isn’t what’s delivered.

Thursday Night Football is an inherently flawed product, one that’s far below Al Michaels even at his age, and dare I say below the talent of Kirk Herbstreit and his ill-gotten Emmys. Herby has called better Big 12 games on Thursdays than what the Shield is offering, and Michaels spends the broadcast trying to stave off gout and contempt.

Also, what kind of NFL playoff game does $150 million buy you? I bet it’s whatever one the Texans and Browns are playing in. It takes decades and billions to buy the kind of reputation you desire, Jeff, so take that gaudy yacht and park it in someone else’s harbor.

CBS Sports

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Jim Nantz and Tony Romo are the Big Bang Theory of NFL booths. They do great ratings, critics talk about them, and CBS doesn’t care if they’re corny, or even good, as long as they don’t offend the geriatric demo. This is the network that brought us endless CSIs, and still thinks One Shining Moment is the most important montage in sports, so of course they have no problem when Tony repeats “Here we go, Jim” for three and a half hours.

Has there been weird coded-language energy from the SEC afternoon slots for some time? Sure, but Tim Brando is now at Fox, CBS swapped out the SEC for B1G games, and supremacist and elitist are not interchangeable regardless of how similar they may be.

TNT/Turner

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Screenshot: TNT

The reason people love Inside the NBA so much is how inclusive it is. Look at the respect Ernie Johnson receives. Obviously, he’s earned it, but you know he’s sharper than he advertises. You have to be great at your job to corral Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal every Thursday and get them to speak in understandable sentences without it devolving into fart and Rudy Gobert jokes.

The MLB postseason coverage is a little crotchety, which is exactly how baseball fans like it, so bonus points for playing to your audience there. Plus, the guys who scream about bat flips and home run trots rarely have the patience for pre- or post-game analysis, so it doesn’t really matter that they can’t understand Pedro Martinez or Big Papi.

Fox Sports

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Fox had (still has?) a dancing football robot as its NFL mascot. They thought Pete Rose was a good idea. Big Noon Saturday was basically just a Deion Sanders’ YouTube channel. They ran off Greg Olsen to chase ratings nirvana with Tom Brady. Skip Bayless race-baits cohosts Monday through Friday. I didn’t realize how much soccer coverage played into this list, but it makes sense. Imagine the jokes Sky Sports would make if Alexi Lalas ever interviewed for a job? My lord.

Fox doesn’t care. It’s literally been a running joke on The Simpsons since the ’90s. I think their NFL pregame show is good enough that SNL’s parodies are funnier than the real thing, but not by much.



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