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ESPN has been the sports fans' fallback television station for the last 30-plus years. It helped fill a void desperately needed when ESPN premiered in 1979.

That isn't the case anymore.

Once a staple for news, highlights and information for sports junkies everywhere, the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader now panders to yelling, screaming and putdowns. 

OK, not everyone at ESPN is like that. That's too big of a generalization. "Mike & Mike" still is a respectful show that is entertaining without being boastful. "Outside the Lines" with Bob Ley is an excellent program focusing on important issues in sports.

It's just that those who are making the most noise are ruining the reputations of those professional broadcasters and journalists who once made ESPN truly great.

The latest news from ESPN is devastating. The network is not confirming the number, but reports are that 100 or more have been fired in a cost-cutting move.

Many are writers for who gave the Website plenty of insightful opinion and broke news on a regular basis. These are the meat-and-potatoes reporters who will be sorely missed.

Then there are those more familiar to TV viewers such as NFL insider Ed Werder, MLB reporter Jayson Stark, NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, college basketball reporter Andy Katz, college football analyst Mark May, college basketball analyst Len Elmore, golf analyst Dottie Pepper and college football analyst/radio host Danny Kennell.

How ESPN can be better off without these quality people providing their expertise and knowledge is ridiculous.

The TV landscape is rapidly changing. The explosion of networks devoted to specific sports has jolted ESPN's dominance and ratings. Then ESPN overpaying for game rights to the NBA, NFL and MLB made Disney's stockholders nervous.

Unfortunately, those sacrificed were the folks who made ESPN a must-stop for sports fans everywhere. Those days appear gone forever. 

Horse racing: Kentucky Derby (NBC, 5:30 p.m. Saturday): It figures to be muddy down the stretch at Churchill Downs. That sets up for a longshot to pull off an upset.

MLB: Yankees at Cubs (Fox, 6:15 p.m. Saturday; ESPN, 7 p.m. Sunday): Those who don't like interleague play would have missed Cubs' visit to Fenway Park last weekend and now Bronx Bombers coming to Wrigley Field.

NBA playoffs: Game 4, Spurs at Rockets (TNT, 8 p.m. Sunday): There's not a more fun team to watch right now than Houston as James Harden & Co. are shooting 3s like they're layups.

Contact Jim Benson at



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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