Gazing Into The Looking Glass

By Tom Donelson
Updated: May 20, 2007

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Just a year ago, I appeared on “Black Athlete Sports Unlimited” hosted by BASN’s CEO Roland Rogers. At one point, the discussion of boxing and the role of television on sports came up.

Mr. Rogers noted that much of sports have switched to cable and the day that most of the major sporting events appeared on the major networks is over. His major point is that many young kids are losing access to sports as the price of cable has jumped up.

Of course, the good news is that the vast majority of Americans are wired for cable or DirecTV. One reality was that the good old days really were not the good ole’ days.

Baseball fans had their game of the week, basketball had their Sunday afternoon game and of course, college football had their major games on Saturday and NFL had Sunday.

Boxing occasionally appeared on ABC’s “Wide World Of Sports”, but many sporting events were not televised and denied to the audience.

Cable made sports available 24/7 and increase the number of sporting events for the die hard fans. The reality is that most Americans own cable packages and now have 100 of choices to draw from. On any given night, you can see a variety of sporting events.

Love basketball? During the regular season, ESPN and TNT shows NBA on at least four nights a week and every night during the playoffs. Plus, you can pick up local teams on any given nights.

Baseball? During baseball season, you can watch baseball almost every night. Football? During football season, you can see either professional or college football every night.

The diehard football even gets Arena Football during the offseason plus a daily report on the NFL activities. Cable has created a smorgasbord for sports fan and it has given the hard core fans a chance to follow their sports on a daily basis.

Tennis and golf features their own sports channel and soccer fans can follow their favorite international sports network. Another aspect of cable is that new sports have grown up.

Mixed Martial Arts, the X games, and Arena football are just some of the sports that have grown up on cable. It’s allowed these athletes access to new audiences and in some cases, they have become successful competitors to the older more established sports.

Cable presents both opportunities and challenges for any sports. Tennis has seen ratings drop on the major networks but there is still a hardcore audience to view the major events.

ESPN and the Tennis Channel allows tennis fans to follow their favorites throughout the year competing on the major tournaments. This has allowed Tennis to survive.

Golf has been able to ride the Tiger Woods’ train by adding its own network to create more coverage for the hard core fans and the NFL has their own network. Every day, the hardcore football can follow up on the activity of their favorite teams even during the off season.

Boxing, the sport I’m most familiar with, is surviving because of cable. Most networks have long ignored boxing and most sports department treat boxing along with the Mixed Martial Arts as the crazy aunt that needs to hidden in the attic.

Cable has allowed more boxing to be viewed than ever before. Many boxing purists remember the days when ABC would broadcast the sport on a consistent basis, but what is missed is that the bouts are never seen.

Many fights were held during the week and often fans had to wait until the next morning to hear the results or they had to find a radio station that might have a round by round description.

Many big fights were a PPV event. The first Ali-Frazier was PPV and there were no repeat viewing available. Even today, if you miss the main PPV event, HBO will replay it the following week.

In the 1950s, boxing was at its apex with its weekly broadcast but today, there are more events televised than even the 1950’s. This is the golden era for sports as far as broadcasting and that includes boxing.

The good old days do not compare to today. That is the fact. More sports have open up more opportunities and added value to those sports.