ESPN in the '80s through about the mid '90s was excellent. It had a variety of programming, it showed exciting sports like hockey, and its head had not grown too big for its body.
I had cracked some of my friends up with this so I decided to post. This is an excerpt from an official* ESPN memo to a new studio anchor.
Welcome to ESPN, the most exciting job you will ever have! Before you go on the air, you must observe and adhere to the broadcasting standards we have set. Failure to observe these standards will subject you to one hour meetings with Chris Berman after he has had too much coffee. To make this easier, we have divided this by sport:
ESPN - ESPN actually stands for the Eternally Self Promoting Network. You must mention upcoming programming, past programming, the fact we broadcast the game you are discussing highlights for, and mention the network in any top 10 list we invent. For any reason. Failure to mention ESPN in a five minute span of broadcasting will result in a fine. We have assisted you by plastering our name on the screen and by providing slick graphics that may limit the amount of info we can show on the screen, but look good.
Major League Baseball - This sport consists of two main teams, the Yankees and Red Sox. 90% of your time on this sport must be dedicated to hyping this rivalry, and deeply explore every single issue within it. If Manny is being Manny, you must say why. If Steinbrenner opens his mouth, you must fully dissect the quote. Even if they do not play a game and have no highlights, you must speak about them - just pass on a trade rumor or something. Even if its January. Occasionally you must mention other teams such as the Cubs, because they are cursed and you can never overload that story. Otherwise, spend a little time discussing pennant races outside of the two main teams, or else we could be accused of not paying attention. If someone makes a good play in the field, you must mention that it is an ESPN Web Gem Nominee. All other highlights consist of the following: home runs. Show the guy swinging, the ball landing in the seats, and a bit of the guy on his way to second base. Nothing in sports is more exciting than watching a home run, and they only occur 2-3 times per game. Note: You can pick up tips for what to say by watching ESPN Baseball Tonight, which will show the exact same highlights for an hour before you are on the air. Be sure to acknowledge them by reminding viewers when Baseball Tonight will next be shown, regardless of our commercials and sound bits and graphics which will also remind viewers.
NFL - You must mention Brett Favre. Is he playing? Is he retiring? Don't worry, this story is good for 5 more years, plus 2 more in speculation of a comeback after he actually retires. If someone gets arrested, you must discuss it more than the police did. The Dallas Cowboys, no matter how bad they are, are the main team to mention. You must depict them in a soap opera atmosphere. Be ready in case a wide receiver has something to say, no matter how stupid it may seem. Peyton Manning does not get enough air time in commercials, you must show his quotes and highlights no matter if the Colts won or lost. Every touchdown pass is shown, although more time is given to ones that are on trick plays or if Terrell Owens does not drop the catch. You must mention ESPN Monday Night Football in every broadcast, even if we are showing the Browns versus the Chiefs.
NBA - There are 2 teams here, the Lakers and the Celtics. Be careful. When mentioning the Lakers, you must name them as "Kobe and the Lakers". Cleveland's team is to be mentioned specifically as "Le Bron" such as "Le Bron takes on the Bucks". Two other players you must mention only by first name and never mention their team are "Shaq" and "Carmelo." Alan Iverson must be mentioned with first and last name, or as AI, or as The Answer. The mantra: in the NBA, individuals matter far more than the team. Every dunk must be shown, and it is to be described as if it is the most spectacular and difficult thing in sports to do. We realize the guys are 7 feet tall and can touch the rim without jumping, but remember we are watching. The occasional white guy making a three pointer is boring, but the 3 shots that AI makes out of the 30 he takes per game must be shown. Any fancy play must be described in a ghetto flavor. Like the NFL, you will also dedicate time discussing the most recent player arrest (don't worry, they will happen). Also be sure to mention our next NBA matchup and observe our mantra as mentioned above i.e. "tomorrow night, LeBron takes on Kobe and the Lakers."
NHL - This is not a sport. Repeat: this is not a sport. I don't care if you find it exciting and watch hockey for the other 23 hours you are not on the air. We do NOT have broadcasting rights to the NHL and therefore, it does not matter! Highlights are relegated to a 30 second segment with five minutes left in SportsCenter, perhaps as mentioning the scores or who won the Stanley Cup. Occasionally when we need filler or Kobe and LeBron both did not play, we will bring in Barry Melrose to discuss the NHL (as if anyone cares). The only exception to this rule is to show any negative event: examples are the Bertuzzi-Moore incident, McSorley's stick incident, any talk of labor strife or a potential lockout, or if Sean Avery opens his mouth. ESPN's goal is to convince all viewers that the NHL does not matter and it is a brutal activity that should be laughed upon.
Poker - This IS a sport! The upcoming broadcasts of the world series of poker must be mentioned, even if there are not any. We will occasionally air highlights, such as a guy staring at his cards, a guy playing with his chips, or a guy celebrating his win. Do not worry, we will show at least an hour of poker per day (you must remember to mention our upcoming broadcasts). Since we show it, it is therefore important and everyone must mention it. Remember: poker is nearly as exciting as watching a home run.
NASCAR - in case you missed it, this is now a sport. NASCAR is no longer a bunch of rednecks that we formerly scorned and relegated to the "NHL segment" of SportsCenter. They are sophisticated professionals. We now have broadcast rights! You will show crashes and people getting passed for the lead, the occasional pit crew mishap, and the crossing of the finish line. If someone wins who does donuts, show that. Broadcast it with enthusiasm as if no one in the American public does not drive every day anyway. Remember to mention any upcoming ESPN NASCAR broadcast.
Golf - We know how great Tiger Woods is, but you must broadcast to the viewer each night as if the viewer has never heard the name. Even if he wins yet another tournament, and he will win 10 or more per year. Every Phil Mickelson error and choke job is to be described as "coming up just short again" or else "an unfortunate turn of events" or "just a bad shot." There will be occasional hole in ones or sand saves from other golfers we show. If anyone other than Tiger happens to win, you must mention the win in context to Tiger's performance, even if Tiger didn't participate in the tournament. Be sure to mention that we are broadcasting the first two rounds of the Masters, even if it is 6 months away.
College Football - Only the big name schools matter. Notre Dame. USC. Ohio State. Miami. Alabama. Oklahoma. You get the picture. Little schools are only shown in highlights with the big schools. Don't worry, we will supply you with the ESPN's Top 25 highlights only, even if Oklahoma won a game 70-7 against a creampuff school that can barely field a team. Otherwise you should only discuss the Heisman race and mention which bowls ESPN will be showing.
College Basketball - Observe that ESPN is officially sponsored by Coach K and Duke University. We show 20 of their games per season, they are always at that rickety arena of theirs. Dick Vitale will provide analysis alluding to this sponsorship anyway, but you must mention nonetheless. Other good teams like North Carolina, Georgetown, and Connecticut get the majority of the remainder of the air time. We show some of the NCAA tournament as well as other major games, so be sure to promote each of these matchups according to when we are broadcasting them. As in the NBA, dunks are to be described as the most difficult thing to do in sports other than hitting a home run.
Horseracing - this is a sport too, because we have broadcast rights. You will show major race highlights, talk about the Triple Crown possibilities, and if any horse has to be put down you must describe it as if it is 9/11 all over again.
Other - This is a trick category. There ARE no other sports. Once every 4 years you will spend a few minutes for 2 weeks discussing the Olympics. We do not have broadcast rights to the Olympics so this time must be kept to a minimum. Any remaining time on your broadcasts will be spent discussing scandals, rumors involving the Yankees and Red Sox, anything said on the Cowboys, and upcoming games for Kobe and LeBron.
We here at ESPN wish you the best of luck as as ESPN anchor. We are confident you will be successful at ESPN as an ESPN anchor if you observe these ESPN broadcast rules on ESPN. ESPN is dedicated to excellence. ESPN.
ESPN management at ESPN.