SBD/21/Sports Media

ESPN PONDERS RIGHTEOUSNESS IN OFFERING SHOWBOATING CLIPS

           While ESPN's "SportsCenter" airs highlights every
     night, the producers and hosts of the show "are concerned
     about the effect on their audience -- particularly younger
     viewers -- of replays showing professional athletes
     celebrating victories by making throat-slitting gestures or
     choke signs," according to Leonard Shapiro of the WASHINGTON
     POST.  ESPN's Dan Patrick, during a panel discussion
     sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates, on whether athletes
     are becoming more demonstrative to get on "SportsCenter":
     "We are guilty of showing gratuitous celebration, and I'm
     sure it leads to high school kids wanting to do it, too. 
     The whole thing of slitting your throat, that's
     embarrassing, and we shouldn't do that. ... If there's an
     honest, spontaneous celebration, great."  ESPN's Chris
     Berman: "I hate that.  I don't know if that's our problem. 
     If it is, we need to do something about it.  To me, that's
     an NBA thing.  It's one of the reasons I don't watch it very
     much."  ESPN Exec Editor John Walsh said that there "is
     increasing pressure" to include more sports on the show, but
     that the "obligation [is] to show to a large audience the
     sports that are most popular.  We have people from leagues
     petitioning us all the time for more coverage.  That's one
     of the big changes in the last five or six years.  We give a
     lot more time now to auto racing and golf because the
     interest is there" (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 5/21).
          MORE ON HIGHLIGHTS: USA TODAY's "In Focus" section
     examined the culture of sports news networks.  FSN Exec
     Producer John Terenzio: "Hockey fights, car crashes,
     backboard-shattering dunks -- we show them all and make no
     bones about it.  There's viewer interest, and we're not
     ashamed of it."  ESPN News Dir Vince Doria said that the
     "top priority in highlights is their relevance" to a game
     story, "but there's room for interesting video -- and a
     backboard breaking is interesting video" (USA TODAY, 5/20). 
     In Baltimore, Milton Kent: "So all that talk out of last
     November's ESPN town meeting on sportsmanship must have been
     just that -- talk.  How else does one explain the judgement
     of 'SportsCenter' producers to lead yesterday's overnight
     show with the Orioles-Yankees melee over NBA and NHL playoff
     highlights and a three-homer performance from  
     St. Louis' Mark McGwire?" (Baltimore SUN, 5/21).   

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