ESPN's Highs and Lows in Ethics and Entertainment

Illustrations by MCKIBILLO

ESPN’s original logo

Visions of Victory

Throughout the 1980s, anchor Chris Berman offered topnotch analysis—with flair: before his iconic turban, his head floated in a crystal ball.

‘Best-Written Show on TV’

Early on, SportsCenter became a breakout hit, bringing attitude, clever wordplay, and humor—as well as Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann—to the drab world of sports commentary.

The Deuce

ESPN 2 was launched in 1993 to attract fans of niche sports: snowboarding, strength competitions, even poker.

Best Bet

The network’s coverage of Pete Rose’s gambling showed it could compete with the major TV stations and newspapers in terms of serious newsgathering.

‘This Is SportsCenter’

The popular ad campaign depicted Bristol as a sports mecca where athletes and mascots (in uniform) mixed freely with anchors.

Winning Emmys

Outside the Lines, launched in 2002, is still earning kudos for its investigations.

Flag on the Play

Playmakers—the network’s first fictional drama, which aired in 2003—angered the NFL. It was quickly canceled.

Throwing Punches

The Crossfire of sports, Pardon the Interruption features screaming matches.

Ball Hog

The Decision handed NBA star LeBron James editorial control of the announcement of his new contract. Fans everywhere booed.