You’re all (sports) talk

Alex Weinberg, Iris Reviews Editor

In today’s age of sports, nothing happens without studio analysts and sports talk show hosts picking apart players, games, teams and decisions piece by piece. However, when sports talk shows present just the facts, they make solid arguments but fail to engage viewers. Given that they are on television to entertain, these shows need to have character.
And in today’s sports world, they absolutely do.
It seems that sports talk shows have become more popular because of the strong on-air personalities, and they’ve become less about the actual sporting events. Look at ESPN’s First Take, for example. When have on-air personalities Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman ever agreed? Both are extravagant, stubborn and brash.
Using this formula, they have shaped their careers by telling audiences, “He’s wrong and I’m right. Listen to me and I’ll tell you why.”
And what’s more; it works. I take time out of my day to watch them debate and scream at each other because it is entertaining to watch two grown men act like children on live television.
This trend started in 2001 when ESPN launched Pardon the Interruption with Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. It took a little while for the sports television industry to see if a show that combined sports debate and sports talk radio would last. But by the mid-2010s, networks saw that it was safe and ultimately copied Pardon the Interruption almost verbatim, essentially flooding the market with new shows.
Now, multiple networks air series like Pardon the Interruption every day. And every show has a strong personality meant to entertain. Whether the audience finds personas like Skip Bayless, Shannon Sharpe, Will Cain, Mike Greenberg or Colin Cowherd likeable is beside the point. What matters is that they are engaging, because people care what they say, and hence they care about the show.
Today, these sports shows are so ubiquitous that it would almost seem bizarre not to have all these familiar personalities constantly debating and arguing the daily news in the sports world. However, one thing is for sure: These shows are entertaining and it looks like they are not going anywhere anytime soon.