I have my issues with ESPN. Their sports as entertainment rather than athletics mission (see their idiotic “Who’s More Now?” campaign from a few years back), as well as their east coast bias have always turned me off. But ESPN3 is one thing they do very, very well.
Let me backtrack a bit: I don’t have cable. I watch all my cricket via Willow.TV, and all my other sport via ESPN3 or I head on down to the Pub. (My pub here in Minneapolis is The Local, if you ever happen to visit.) (And let me know if you do, I will buy you a drink.) (I do not watch illegal streams. It is a personal choice. I do not think you are a bad person if you do).
Despite this handicap, and despite the fact the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championships are only on ESPN’s family of networks, and despite the fact that ESPN is a cable only network, I was able to large nearly every kick of the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012: thanks to ESPN3. It is a fantastic product. It is sport for everyone. I do not think that ESPN’s motives are pure, of course, but they come across as so. Sport for the masses, not just for the elite. And they show everything: not just the big four, but also cricket, and rugby, and football, and Formula 1, and polo (horses, not speedos), and boxing, and lacrosse, and tennis, and on and on and on. There is no west coast bias, there is no flash, there is no “entertainment”. It is not American centric. It is just sport. Turn it on and watch.
And to top it all off: the streams are of the highest quality. They rarely freeze, and they always work, unlike other legal sport streams. (Cough, WillowTV, cough).
All of this brings me to NBC’s Olympic coverage. Despite the fact that NBC is a free, over the air channel, and despite the fact that NBC owns the rights to every Olympic event, I have been unable to watch the vast majority of the Games.
The flagship over-the-air channel has shown nothing worth watching. During the day it is mostly volleyball or water polo. And at night it is tape delayed events that I already know the outcome to. (Sure I could go on Internet Blackout but going spoiler free during the Olympics is damn near impossible).
And while they do have online streaming available, you cannot watch it unless you have cable. I could not pay for it even if I wanted to, and I would have wanted to.
It is the opposite of ESPN3. It is the opposite of the Olympic spirit. It is sport for the elite. Sport for rich people. It is Target Field, while ESPN3 is the Metrodome (local reference, sorry). And it just makes me sad. Because I love the Olympics.
Over the years I have been a staunch defender of NBC’s Olympic coverage. But no more. And I hereby put out an official request:
Please purchase the USA Television rights for the Olympics.