The Top 10 Sports Shows on ESPN

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All of us loyal sports fanatics spend a decent amount of time in front of the computer and television every day, checking up on the wide world of sports, listening to analysis, watching the main highlights of the day, and trying to stay on top of any big story that may be out there.

There are dozens of shows we could tune in to at all different times throughout the day, but I’ve boiled it down to a list of what I view to be the top 10 sports coverage shows on ESPN. So obviously, this list does not include fiction or reality shows, which are very common in today’s day and age. So for all you fans of “The League” and “Pro’s Versus Joe’s,” well, that list is for another day. This one will simply be shows centered around sports news and analysis on “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

Why restrict it to ESPN? Well, when making the original list, no shows from CBS or the Turner Networks made the cut. ESPN is the only network that we can always rely on for current sports news, so we all watch ESPN by far and away more than any other channel for our coverage. Besides the occasional pre and post-game show on CBS, TNT, or a local affiliate, we all are much more used to the personalities and traditions we watch on the ESPN network of stations.

"SportsNation" on ESPN 2 is one of the hottest newer shows, but will it make the list? Photo courtesy Nacion ESPN via Wikimedia

Now obviously, the deciding factor for what goes where on this list is pure opinion. I tried to be as impartial and fair as possible, so don’t get too mad if you’re a big supporter of Jim Rome. However, I do study sports full time and also work in the industry. I study everything about sports including its psychology, sociology, and marketing, but my main study centers around sports communication, most specifically its broadcasting. So I’ll try to use all of my knowledge that I’ve acquired from that in order to arrange this list best.

But before you all put the TV back on, let’s get started…

10. Around the Horn

"Dueces, bro." Photo via Wikimedia

When talking about shows everyone can relate to, this is a good place to get started. From hosts Max Kellerman to Tony Reali, the show has stayed consistent and enjoyable throughout its tenure on ESPN since 2002. You can always joke around with your friends about Woody Paige’s antics, Tim Cowlishaw’s goatee, or Jay Mariotti’s absurd thoughts (back in the day, of course).

But all those goofy characteristics take away a bit from its value as a news show. They do go through the main sports stories of the day, but the stories often are joked about, as the seriousness of the show seems to dwindle as the half-hour goes on…the ending topics are usually there for comedic purposes.

But nonetheless, it’s a staple of sports television. When it’s on, you sit down and watch it, so the show probably won’t go anywhere for a while. And as long as it continues to be that staple of our sports news, it will stay on the list. My only suggestion is that Mr. Reali adds something after the “23 & 1/2 hour” line and paper toss…spice it up a bit, man.

9. Outside the Lines

There’s comical sports news programs and there’s serious ones. And then there’s Outside the Lines with Bob Ley. It runs daily every week day afternoon on ESPN ever since it got huge reviews when it was only aired on the weekend, and I think that’s the reason why it’s not a lot higher on the list.

All of the topics that are covered are serious. Some are just the ones that need to be discussed and debated, and some are very tragic and emotional pieces. ESPN loves to come out with those emotional features, and while they’re great the first time you watch them, they get old after they come on five times a day. Also, OTL has been used as a stepping stone of sorts to a similar show that has gained popularity in recent years, which we’ll discuss later.

With all of the OTL stories being covered before and after the show on programs like SportsCenter, Bob Ley’s show has lost its touch. At times it’s still outstanding, which is why it stayed in the top 10, as there’s often compelling interviews and debates. But let’s be honest, at times it feels like a time-filler in which ESPN just repeats itself.

8. Pardon the Interruption

Any show with the great Michael Wilbon has an argument to be on this list. While he is a huge Chicago sports fan and knows much more about the B1G than say, the ACC, he always stays impartial and fair. He tells it how it should be told, and makes all of his viewpoints and arguments very comprehensible. If I could make a list of my favorite sports reporters, writers, and analysts (hint, hint), he’d be near the top of the list.

Wilbon is only one half of PTI, though. Tony Kornheiser is a classic example of the over-opinionated, loud-mouth sports writer that has been thrown onto television. For that reason, I know lots of people that are not fans of his. However, over the years on the show I think he has learned to tune it back a bit. While he can still be loud and at times obnoxious, he doesn’t throw ridiculous claims out there about what’s going on in sports.

He also does a great job taking away from the seriousness that Wilbon brings to the program and makes it have a great balance between comedy and journalism. So whether you want to be informed on current events in the sports world or you want to enjoy a good laugh about it, PTI is a solid program to watch.

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About Zach Gropper

Zach Gropper is a sports broadcasting major at Indiana University in the beautiful town of Bloomington, IN. He is from Flossmoor, IL, a small Chicago suburb.
Zach was was the sports director for WHFH 88.5 FM Flossmoor his junior year of high school and Television Station Manager of Viking Television during his senior year.
He runs a White Sox blog at and also contributes and reports for Last summer, Zach interned for ESPN 1000 AM Chicago, working on programming for the Waddle and Silvy Show.
He is currently eager to get out into the professional world of sports media, wherever that may take him.


  1. Greg Markham says:

    Love the list! SN is a little high for my liking but I appreciate how they involve the fan polling and that’s what we all want, to be involved in a show that we’re watching. Also I thought E:60 was placed appropriately but I’m beginning to sour slightly on that show. It has a tendency to be sooooo depressing! My wife and I find ourselves turning it off because it puts a damper on our night! I know there are other interesting, positive and uplifting stories that I wish they would focus on! Thanks for the great article and well placed rankings!!!

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