ESPN Magazine hits bottom with list of top sports moments

Media Watch

September 15, 1998|By MILTON KENT

As part of our reoccurring attempt to demystify the media, we're going to let you in on a little secret: Articles, like ESPN Magazine's grouping of the supposed top 25 moments in sports since Roger Maris hit his 61st homer to close the 1961 season, are nothing more than naked attempts to get you the reader to talk about the publication.

The hope, of course, is that your talk will spur you and your friends to purchase said publication, and, in that sense, ESPN is not alone.

We all do it. A couple of months ago, TV Guide published a list of its greatest sports television moments, along with a shorter list of great sportscasters. This newspaper, on occasion, has been known to solicit reader opinion on a variety of topics, hoping that you'll read it and get others to read it.

No harm, no foul, right? Usually that's true, but this ESPN list, formulated among staffers of the magazine, "SportsCenter," and its online service, is so wrong-headed on a variety of counts that it can't go unchallenged.

How wrong is it? Let us count some of the ways:

1. Mark McGwire's surpassing Maris is ranked first ahead of Hank Aaron's 715th home run to eclipse Babe Ruth's career mark, which comes in fourth.

Think of the illogic of that. With all due credit to McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who has since passed Maris, how could the crowning blow of one season's worth of work be more significant than the mark that caps a career? The answer: It can't, unless the voters are too shortsighted to know what they're talking about.

2. By the same token, (and excusing any local bias) how can Carlton Fisk's home run to win Game 6 of the 1975 World Series (ranked sixth) or Doug Flutie's "Hail Mary" pass in 1984 (10th) be ranked ahead of Cal Ripken's consecutive-games mark?

Yes, Ripken's record is one of endurance, rather than of a specific achievement, but the mark he supplanted was thought to have been the most durable in all of sports. Heck, the Fisk home run wasn't even considered one of the 10 greatest in baseball history, according to a survey four pages later in ESPN Magazine.

3. Try as you might, you won't find Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Nadia Comaneci, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Olga Korbut, Chamique Holdsclaw, Rebecca Lobo or the name of any other woman on the list.

That's right, we are supposed to believe that over the last 37 years, no female athlete has made a contribution worthy enough to make a list of the 25 most significant athletic events during that time.

Yeah, right. Can you say chauvinistic? We knew that you could.

In fairness, the poll does get a few things right, namely the recognition of the accomplishment of the 1966 Texas Western men's basketball team, the first team with five black starters to win the NCAA title, beating Kentucky, who had five white starters, as well as Cassius Clay's 1964 knockout of Sonny Liston. But the wrong of the survey more than outweighs the good it does.

Tune in Tuesday

ESPN and HBO present new installments of their excellent sports magazine series tonight, and thank goodness, they're not scheduled against each other.

ESPN's latest "Outside the Lines" examines the rash of new sports stadiums either under construction or in the talking or planning stages, with host Bob Ley anchoring from the Ravens' new playpen at 7: 30 p.m. Right after "OTL," "SportsCenter" anchor Dan Patrick chats with McGwire at 8: 30 p.m., with a similar special on Sosa scheduled for tomorrow at 7: 30 p.m.

At 9: 30 p.m., HBO's "Real Sports" returns, with a Mary Carillo interview with John Madden the featured piece of the hour.

Mayne stay

Maybe the "Far Side" brand of humor by ESPN's Kenny Mayne isn't your cup of tea, but if you get it, it can send you into convulsions.

Take Sunday night's "SportsCenter" for instance. While narrating highlights of the U.S. Open men's finals, Mayne inserted an imitation of the sounds of the old '70s' video game, "Pong," during a long rally. Sure, it was goofy, but sometimes goofy is just what the situation calls for, and so is Mayne.

Just the facts, man

Marty Bass' interview with a Cross Street Market sushi bar owner on Sunday's Ravens' radio pre-game show wasn't exactly your hard-hitting examination of game strategy, but that's OK.

What wasn't so OK was Bass' unchallenged assertions about the new stadium's effect on surrounding business and the local tax base.

It's dubious whether such topics belong on a program as frivolous as a team's pre-game show, but when they do arise, both sides of an argument should be presented and there was another point of view to be considered.

Pub Date: 9/15/98

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