ESPN doesn’t allow viewers to go hungry with ‘sports’ coverage |

ESPN doesn’t allow viewers to go hungry with ‘sports’ coverage

Steve Yingling

Didn’t ESPN once lay claim to being the total sports network?

For some reason ESPN has taken it upon itself to change the definition of what sport is today.

Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, boxing and golf can’t possibly fill all of those time slots, so ESPN has expanded the world of sports to include any eating contest, spelling bee or Friday night poker game. It probably won’t be long before the sports channel takes the Westminster Dog Show off the USA Network’s hands.

Watching someone woof down 49 hot dogs is fine and dandy if you’re attending a state fair, but not when you’re hoping to see Derek Lee’s quest for the Triple Crown.

Is a contest really a sport? If so, why doesn’t ESPN televise beauty pageants or finger-painting contests?

During the two minutes my remote control had the nerve to switch to a replay of the hot dog championship, there happened to be analyst – how much did that cost ESPN? – informing viewers how champion Takeru Kobayashi ate the wiener separately from the bun each time. No wonder he can’t be beaten!

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Boy, I can’t wait to use that method at the next company barbecue.

There is no reason why Kobayashi should be a household name. But after winning his fifth straight hot dog-eating championship last month, Kobayashi is just that – a celebrity. Thanks to ESPN, Kobayashi won’t ever be invited to another barbecue.

On the other hand, don’t be startled if NBC invites Kobayashi to the American Century Championship next July. They’d have to close the snack shack between the ninth green and 10th tee, though.

ESPN obviously needs to examine its integrity.

Albeit, no one could have expected the network to carry out its dedication to the X generation as long as it has, but ESPN has fallen into somewhat of a Pong funk. Surely you remember when the only video game on the market was Pong – that wonderfully inept adaptation of tennis that could make you fall asleep before bedtime.

I long for the days when ESPN televised ping pong and miniature golf.

Think of all the sports or events they are missing. Wouldn’t it be cool if they televised the Badwater 146 from Death Valley to Mount Whitney, the Mavericks surf contest, World Cup downhill racing and so on?

Oh, no, I just checked the TV listings and the Alka Seltzer U.S. Open Competitive Eating title is coming up. You guessed it, ESPN has total rights to this nonsporting event.

What is going on with those ESPN executives in Bristol, Conn.? They need to go on a slim-fast diet and be required to join the company athletic club.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or