By Tony Altobelli

Killeen Daily Herald

Journalists, like most people, love to build things up, then, when they get too popular, we love to knock them down.

Time for me to do a little knocking.

Remember the South Park episode where Cartman's Trapper Keeper made itself stronger and stronger by hybridizing with other things until it was out of control and it tried to rule the world?

ESPN is the new version of Cartman's Trapper Keeper, but unlike its cartoon twin, this out-of-control substance will not be defeated by Rosie O'Donnell or any other living creature.

Back in its infancy, ESPN was a one-channel crap shoot that teetered on the brink of usefulness.

Then, it was the one-stop, round-the-clock bastion of sports that didn't get in the way of what it was trying to cover.

Now, ESPN could turn Bristol, Conn. into a 51st state if it wanted to.

With ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNews, ESPNU and of course, ESPN Deportes, this sports machine is in the public's brain 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Unfortunately, like most of the professional sports, this type of expansion can do nothing but thin out the cream of the crop and allow more crud to make its way to the airwaves.

With that in mind, here are my top-10 things I hate about ESPN.

Drum roll please.

10. Chris Berman A once-proud staple of the network, Berman now totally relies on catch phrases and his wardrobe as the focal points to his commentary.

You don't believe me on the wardrobe? Watch throughout the course of the year how many times he'll wear something rather noisy and bring it up whenever he's on camera. I counted six separate references when he wore his "green" jacket on the final day of the Masters.

Oh yeah, enough with the attempt-to-be funny, alter-the-last-name thing. You've taken that bit all ... the ... waaaaaay ... to the graveyard.

9. ESPN Original Entertainment "The Junction Boys," "3" and "Playmakers" weren't too bad, but "Hustle," "Season on the Brink" and "Tilt," flopped harder than a 7-2 off-suit at the World Series of Poker, another EOE concept that's horribly out of control.

8. Stuart Scott Already showing the first stages of Chris Berman-itis, Stuart's never-ending utterances of "Boo-Yah!" "Hater in the house" and my personal favorite "Cool as the other side of the pillow" are quickly forcing me into inventing the first ever Stuart Scott voodoo doll.

Scott's other annoying habit leads me to Nos. 7 and 6 ...

7. ESPN game shows Does Stuart Scott ever get any sleep? Do we really need to have these 1970s recycled show ideas on our sports channels? Shows like Teammates (The Newlywed Game), Battle of the Gridiron Stars (Battle of the Network Stars), ESPN's Bowling Night (Bowling for Dollars) and Stump the Schwab (every trivia game show in the world).

6. ESPN reality shows Again, Stu is in my face again, with "Dream Job," ESPN's attempt to jump on the reality-show bandwagon. We make fun of MTV and VH-1 for not running videos on their video channel, is ESPN following that same brilliant plan?

Oh yeah, when did spelling, math, poker, Scrabble and eating hot dogs become sports?


5. Cheap Seats ESPN's version of "Queer Eye for the Sports Guy" makes Beavis and Butthead look like George Carlin and Richard Pryor.

The sad thing is that someone in ESPN-land thinks they're funny and they're on all the time. In the immortal words of Beavis, "AHHHH, this sucks! Change it!"

4. X-Games Again, maybe I'm showing my age here, but is "punk rock" sports really necessary? This virus is now worldwide according to the World Wide Web with the Asian X-Games as well as five X-Games SkateParks located throughout the country.

I'll admit, some of the stuff is pretty "shreddin," but if ESPN can somehow devote a channel solely to the X-Games and leave it out of the other channels, I'd be a happy camper.

3. Woody Paige A great example of a man who sold out big time to the establishment. Paige, a former reporter and columnist for the Denver Post is now the token "Circus Monkey" for ESPN on shows such as "Around the Horn" and "Cold Pizza."

When he's not making a joke of himself, Paige can be insightful and informative. But usually, his thoughts are about as useful to us as a comb would be to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

2. Redundancy department of redundancy In 1999, to celebrate the new millennium, ESPN came up with SportsCentury and it was brilliant, but it's been a downhill freefall since.

"ESPN 25's Who's No. 1?" "Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame" "SportsCenter Flashback" "Battlelines" and all the rest of the highlight shows recycle the same clips over and over and over again.

The "Who's No. 1" show drives me nuts with the way they present each selection. "No. 4, FOUR, FOOOOOUR, FOUR ..."

As for the "Top 5 Reasons" show, the still-picture way of illustrating their arguments, combined with the attempt of serious journalism by Brian Kenney makes the show funnier than a "Best of Cheap Seats" documentary.

And finally, the No. 1 pet peeve of ESPN is ...

1. Bigger than sports itself From books, to their own commercials, to music videos to movies, to being on every other television show basic cable has to offer, ESPN and their personalities are now bigger than the games they cover.

Some of the ridiculous antics of athletes, coaches and fans at sporting events are nothing more than premeditated plots in the hopes of making it on ESPN that night.

Not even the game itself can be used as escape, thanks to ESPN's idea of in-game interviews of coaches in the dugouts.

Even when you turn off your TV, you've still got ESPN Radio, the ESPN Zone stores all over the country and ESPN The Magazine to fall back on.

Or perhaps you can run into some tourtorous parent who actually named their child "Espn," or "Espy." If I ever meet someone named "Kiper Vitale" I may lose it right then and there.

Will it ever end?

On the bright side, there is one thing that is on ESPN's side.

Ric Renner doesn't work there. His top-10 is right around the corner.

Contact Tony Altobelli at

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