This morning was filled with tinges of disappointment and glum as I sat and watched the final episode of ESPN’s The Sports Reporters. After its nearly 30-year run, which left an indelible mark on the landscape of sports journalism, I’ll have to find something else to look forward to on Sunday mornings other than the intelligence, introspection, laughter and soothing acknowledgment that the games that we love mean much more than the final score.
The show was one of my personal comforts dating back to my college days and running through today, a security blanket of sorts that allowed me to take refuge from the idiotic blabber-mouths that are now ubiquitous on our television airwaves masquerading as sports journalists.
With the sports reporters, we got the real deal. The sports talk show first aired in 1988, setting the table for journalists to get out of the newsroom and onto television to add their intelligent voices to the national debate and discussion of what was of interest on the national sports landscape.
The Sports Reporters was can’t miss TV for me, because it stood head and shoulders above the nonsense that currently saturates the radio and television airwaves. Dick Schaap, who hosted the show from 1989 to 2001, and John Saunders, who hosted from 2001 until his death in 2016, brought a dignity and intelligence to the discussion that appealed to both my inner sports enthusiast, fan and nerd.
Over the years, it has become a part of my weekend routine, one that I will certainly miss. My dream was to one day appear on the show alongside one of my journalistic role models who appeared regularly, William C. Rhoden. Now, I’ll have to set another goal.
The show will be replaced by an hour-long version of E:60, its excellent sports journalism magazine show, which will also incorporate some elements of its investigative dynamo Outside The Lines.
But nothing can replace The Sports Reporters.
One of the things I enjoyed most was the diversity of voices and opinions, not only from the male-dominant perspective, but from the knowledgeable and brilliant minds of of women like Jemele Hill, Jackie MacMullan, Selena Roberts and Christine Brennan, among others.
From the Bill Walsh San Francisco 49ers West Coast Offense, Major Harris as a QB wizard at West Virginia, the one-handed wonder Jim Abbott making his MLB debut with the California Angels without ever having pitched in the minors, the incomparable Glen Rice and the ’89 Michigan Wolverines national championship hoops squad, the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals to bring Motown its first ever hoops title, the days of Ivan Lendl, Michael Chang, Boris Becker, Steffi Graf and Arantxa Snchez Vicario tearing it up on the tennis court and the second installment of Sugar Ray Leonard vs The Hit Man aka The Motor City Cobra aka Tommy Hearns, the Sports Reporters took me through some of my greatest sports memories of the last 30 years with an insight and professionalism that will sorely be missed.