1980s vs. Today: Sports and the media   

Updated: June 5, 2008, 12:50 PM ET

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The 1980s vs. Today
Was the sports world better back in the 1980s? Or are we better off today? Page 2 has the answers, specifically looking at …

Weinreb: Comparing/contrasting cheating in the '80s versus today

The ballpark experience
The sports media
The SI swimsuit issue
Sports video games
Superstar athletes
Fantasy games
Lakers vs. Celtics

The 1980s were quieter. Especially at the beginning of the decade, when ESPN was just getting off the ground. Things changed dramatically by the end of the decade, but it was a lot more peaceful back before 24/7 sports talk radio, the Internet, blogs and, well, "Around the Horn."

Pros: Give us some time -- we're thinking, we're thinking. Ummmm, you had a lot more free time on your hands, that's for sure. And because there were fewer games to watch, everyone wound up watching the same ones, which created a nationally shared experience you just don't have as often today. "Monday Night Football," for instance, was a very big deal; no broadcaster today is as big as Howard Cosell was back then. CBS did not have a monopoly on the NCAA basketball tournament. And there were a lot more newspapers providing daily coverage and multiple viewpoints. Oh, and Sports Illustrated was a heck of a lot better, with compelling, lengthy, back-of-the-magazine features that were written by actual SI staffers, not just excerpted from the latest book or, worse, turned into a two-page spread on a football player's impossible workout program.

Cons: Are you kidding? At the beginning of the decade, there often was only one college football game per week on national TV and often only one baseball game as well. And if your team's game ended after the local newspaper's deadline, good luck finding out what the score was the next day. Good lord, Sporting News not only still printed box scores a week after the games were played, but there was a real need for that service!

Howard Cosell

AP Photo

When Howard Cosell was on "Monday Night Football," it was a huge event.

Sports coverage is so overwhelming and ubiquitous that 24/7 doesn't even begin to capture it. It's more like 25/8 or 26/9. About the only time you can't watch a game or get an update is when you are sleeping, although no doubt ESPN engineers are working to correct that even as you read this.

Pros: Want to watch a game in almost any sport at almost any level from almost anywhere in the world? You probably can find it, via cable, satellite or the Internet. Need to find Sandy Koufax's record when pitching on one day's rest? A box score from 1964? The Dodgers' 1986 Baseball Boogie video? A game highlight from last night or last year? It all is available at the touch of your fingers. Want to read daily updates on your favorite team, even though it plays several time zones away from your local newspaper's delivery area? Want analysis from stat freaks and hard-core fans who occasionally know more than the team's beat writers? Just go to your laptop. And best of all, all you need is an Internet connection to get it all anywhere in the world at any time of the day.

Cons: WE'RE SORRY, BUT WE CAN'T HEAR YOU BECAUSE TOO MANY TALKING HEADS ARE SCREAMING ABOUT SOME "CONTROVERSY" THEY ARE PRETENDING OUTRAGES THEM! Sigh. The problem with 24/7 sports coverage is that sports aren't actually played 24/7 (although, regrettably, that seems to be coming soon in college football), but all these sports networks and stations still have to fill their programming schedules with something. And while it's nice that the networks paying billions for broadcasting rights make sure the games are played when the most people can watch them on TV, it's often inconvenient for the people who actually pay for a ticket, only to find out the first pitch or kickoff was rescheduled for a different time (or even a different day) for TV purposes.

VERDICT: Please. It's not even close. While the noise, hype and overreaction surrounding even the most trivial sports events can be infuriating, only an aging curmudgeon would make the case that the fan was better served in the '80s than today.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.


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And then there were two -- the Lakers and Celtics. Who will win the NBA Finals? Let the games begin.

Finals schedule | Playoff bracket | Playoff home

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Audio Audio

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