Growing up, I can always remember Sunday mornings at my house always involved a few things—the only day of the week when the whole family ate breakfast together, political talk shows, and the ESPN equivalent to those political talk shows, The Sports Reporters. On the air since 1988, The Sports Reporters provided a panel for some of the top newspaper sports journalists to discuss issues related to sports, and occasionally much bigger topics. Now, after almost 30 years on the air, ESPN has decided to retire the show.
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The long-running sports talk show began in 1988 and was a forerunner of the flood of shows that run in most major cities featuring members of the media debating, discussing and bloviating the news and issues of the week. What set the show apart—outside of many egoists that floated as panelists—was two hosts that gave the show gravitas: Dick Schaap, who hosted from 1989 to 2001; and John Saunders, who hosted from 2001 until his death in 2016.
ESPN will replace The Sports Reporters with an hour-long version of E:60, its long-running sports journalism magazine show. Outside The Lines is also expected to have a role in that show.
No panelist appeared on the show more than Mike Lupica, who is serving as the current host. Other sports media members who often took up residency included Mitch Albom, Bob Ryan, William C. Rhoden, the late Bryan Burwell, John Feinstein, and Bill Conlin, the disgraced Philadelphia columnist sports columnist who was accused of molesting children as far back as the 1970s prior to his death in 2014.
While the legacy of The Sports Reporters can be felt in lesser shows like First Take and whatever FS1’s version of First Take is calling itself this week, the original was often more quiet and thoughtful than what followed, and is a throwback to a time when newspaper journalists on cable TV was a novelty, rather than the norm. It will be missed.