For ‘SportsCenter,’ more bells, whistles

During a busy and fairly high-profile sports weekend, with the Indy 500 getting the green flag and the NBA playoffs continuing, the place many sports fans call home for highlights will move.

“SportsCenter” goes from one spot on the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn., to another – and the change will be noticeable.

The new “SportsCenter” set includes 25,000 square feet of space and a set-within-a-set look. In some instances, what viewers see will differ greatly from what they’ve seen on the show before because the mix of space and technology enables an almost video game and virtual reality feel for broadcasts.

The studio came with a $175 million price tag and lots of bells and whistles.

“We’re moving into a state-of-the-art studio that will pretty much change how sports fans consume information,” said Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president for news/SportsCenter. “The technology, the graphics and animations, the sets and the working conditions have everyone excited.”

Nearly two dozen behind-the-scenes personnel help run a typical “SportsCenter” broadcast and those talented folks now have more resources at their disposal.

For people simply looking for scores and highlights, such an enhanced approach could prove frustrating, but viewers seeking bare-bones information seem to be the minority anymore. Even casual fans can find results easily many other ways these days.

So the altered approach for “SportsCenter,” and the move to a studio that enables more technology and more tie-ins with online outlets makes sense as sports giant ESPN continues to craft areas for growth.

Silly stats, stories

A couple of recent stories, one involving Penn State and the other the Pirates, displayed the silliness of some media members in the past week.

First, a couple national sports types (and even a local outlet or two), fell prey to some hype last week when the Pirates played at Yankee Stadium. The craziness happened after the Pirates won a game Sunday in the Bronx.

Too many sports folks wanted to frame the story as the Pirates’ first victory in New York against the Yankees since 1960. Or course it was, but it was also just the eighth time the Pirates had played the Yankees on the road in those 54 years because the Pirates play in the National League and the Yankees in the American League.

Had the Pirates endured a prolonged losing slump against their NL rival Mets, that would’ve been a story. But the Yankees stats and story were just contrived and lazy.

Similarly, but not quite at the same level, has been Penn State football coach James Franklin preaching that he’s the team’s fourth head coach in the last 30 games. Even worse, some media members play right along.

OK, it’s true (with the lineage of Joe Paterno to Tom Bradley to Bill O’Brien and then Franklin), but the thing is Bradley was never elevated to head coach. He was only ever an interim.

Sure, it’s semantics, and it’s in no way a shot at Bradley, but when we talk about accuracy in the media, and especially a conscientious approach, those things matter.

Tuner tidbits

n The Indy 500 airs on ABC today. It’s the 50th consecutive year the network has carried the race. The pre-race show begins at 11 a.m., with the green flag scheduled to drop at 12:12 p.m.

n Early risers can catch the start of today’s racing tripleheader with the Monaco Grand Prix (7:30 a.m., NBC). The day also features NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m., Fox), with former Sprint Cup Series champ Kurt Busch attempting to complete both the Indy 500 and Coke 600.

n With California Chrome as the featured attraction, folks associated with the Belmont Stakes and broadcast partner NBC have to be happy leading up to the third race of horse racing’s triple crown. The race begins at 6:30 p.m. June 7, and the favorite has already won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. When horses carry that pedigree into the Belmont Stakes, TV viewership usually ends up around 16 million. Had Chrome not won the first two races, history shows viewership would be around 7 million.

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