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Series: SportsCenter
The flagship program of the sports network ESPN, SportsCenter has been a staple of the American sports landscape since 1979.

SportsCenter, which celebrated its 50,000th episode in 2012, is a sports highlight and analysis show that can be seen at almost all hours of the day on ESPN. Someone who wakes up at 7 a.m. can flip on the TV and watch SportsCenter until they leave for work at 8:30. When they come home at 5 p.m., they can watch the primetime version of SportsCenter. When they go to bed at 11 p.m., they can watch the late-night version, and then the edition from Los Angeles updated to catch the West Coast scores at 2 a.m. And since 2008, they have been able to watch it when they are home sick on a weekday all the way to 2 p.m. And since 2010, when it took over most of the ESPNEWS schedule, all day long.

What started as a simple, low-budget highlight show has, like its parent network, metastasized into a kind of pop culture leviathan that both dominates and frequently influences the sports world it covers.

SportsCenter truly rocketed to national prominence in the early 1990s, when the 11 p.m. broadcast was anchored by Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann (yes, that Keith Olbermann). The two were smart, witty and cultured and they introduced a brand of cutting humor to the broadcast that made it must-see TV. Some of the scenes in Sports Night are references to this—including the "left off the letter 's' in 'bulging disk'" bit. Of course, on SportsCenter, nobody caught it before airing...

Unfortunately, Olbermann, by his own admirable admission, was a bit of a prick and left the network in the late 1990s, though he and Patrick remained friends. Patrick expanded his role into other areas of the network, leaving SportsCenter in the hands of Patrick's post-Olbermann partner, Kenny Mayne, as well as the alternate duo of Rich Eisen and catchphrase machine Stuart Scott. When Eisen left in 2003 to become the on-air lead of the newly minted NFL Network, SportsCenter was left to be anchored by a collection of new talent who sought to emulate Scott's painfully hip catch phrasing (with varying degrees of success) rather than the Olbermann/Patrick/Eisen urbane snarkiness.

For all the complaining about the show, SportsCenter is more popular than ever. There are no serious national challengers to its dominance; CNNSI was launched in 1996 as a 24-hour sports news network, but failed and shut down in May 2002; it didn't help that ESPNEWS, which served essentially the same function, was launched shortly before CNNSI. Also, CNN's long-running nightly sportscast Sports Tonight, which had existed since CNN was founded in 1980, was removed from CNN's schedule shortly after 9/11, moving to CNNSI and was canceled for good with that network's demise. Fox Sports Net has also failed in its attempts to combat SportsCenter. When that network debuted in 1996, it had a news show called Fox Sports News, renamed National Sports Report in 1998. They managed to get Olbermann in 1999, but he left in 2001 and the show was canceled in 2002.

In 2006, FSN debuted a news show called The Final Score which used a basic format of highlights-only and scores to draw viewers in, but it was cancelled in 2011. In 2012, the newly-minted NBC Sports Network will have a go at SC with a new morning recap show called "The 'Lights" (short for "highlights"). In 2013, Fox Sports launched a new channel, Fox Sports 1, which features several programs aping ESPN's formats, including Fox Sports Live, their highlights program (notably hosted by Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole, formerly of the Canadian Sports Centre.)

An increasing trend for the network is to have shows that originate from Los Angeles instead of the network headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. The late SportsCenter (10pm Pacific) moved there in 2011 (hosted by Stan Verette and Neil Everett), and SportsNation moved in 2013 (with Marcellus Wiley replacing Colin Cowherd).

Outside of sports, the show is also famous for its incredibly funny This is SportsCenter commercial series, featuring athletes and celebrities in odd situations (such as Danica Patrick's race car getting towed from Dan Patrick's parking space, David Ortiz offending his mascot by wearing a Yankee hat, or the Manning brothers getting into a fight while taking a tour of the studio).

This series contains examples of:

  • Catch Phrases as stated above, although over time this seems to have disappeared.
  • Closing Credits List: Notable because of their rarity. Once a year, at the end of the first SportsCenter LA of Christmas Eve (so early Christmas morning on the East Coast), ESPN runs a whole list of all of the directors and staff who would otherwise go unnoted due to their work occurring completely off-camera in order to give them their recognition, a compilation of their "This Is SportsCenter" commercials running on one side of the screen to keep it from being completely dead.
  • Demoted to Extra: Ever since ESPN and the NHL parted ways, hockey highlights have now become few and far between. According to Deadspin's weekly "Bristolmetrics" article, which breaks down the show's coverage of sports and athletes in terms of time spent on a subject, the NHL averages only 15-20 minutes of highlights per week during its season. The hardest hit were Gary Thorne, the chief hockey announcer during that time, and Barry Melrose, who left Bristol for a small time to become head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning...that didn't last long.
  • Flanderization: It's striking to catch glimpses of Chris Berman's broadcasting work from his early days even into the early 90's: the mannerisms and catch phrase tendencies are still there, but he's basically just a broadcaster with a bit of shtick. The 2014 version of Berman, however, is a super-charged nickname/catch phrase machine, and many critics have claimed that he makes every broadcast about him.
  • Gender Is No Object: SportsCenter has had its fair share of female anchors over the years, who are utilized for their excellent anchoring skills rather than simple eye candy (although some are rather easy on the eyes). They also have a pretty sizable roster of female anchors instead of one or two tokens; for the first time in 2010, one pair of female anchors (Hannah Storm and Linda Cohn) ended their block of SportsCenter and turned the next block over to another female pairing (Sage Steele and Chris McKendry).
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Chris Berman is the gold standard for the network, but the anchors have mostly ditched catchphrases for these, although some are actually pretty clever. Robert Flores has a Getting Crap Past the Radar knack concerning these ("99 problems but a pitch ain't one" and "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to Djokovic?")
  • Long Runner: And how.
  • Multi-National Shows: Versions air in Canada (SportsCentre, which thankfully treats hockey fairly), Australia, Brazil, and Asia.
  • The Nicknamer: Berman's incredibly lame pun nicknames for players. One lowlight: Joseph "Live and Let" Addai.
  • Salt and Pepper: The Los Angeles anchor duo of Neil Everett and Stan Verett.
    • The late 1990s duo of Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen was another example.
  • Show Within a Show: A non-fictional example. The 6 p.m. edition features a Pardon The Interruption segment, that was treated at one point as the final segment of the main show.
  • Spin-Off: SportsCenterU, which exclusively deals with college sports.
  • Tomboyish Name: Anchor Chris Mc Kendry believe it or not is a woman.
  • Totally Radical: Almost everything said by Stuart Scott.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: Very frequently, the first highlight shown on the program will be a recap of the sporting event that the network just televised.
    • Or, even worse, highlights from the big event on another network that just ended, with a greeting of those switching to SportsCenter from the game...
      • If there was a big event that a huge chunk of people, including the vast majority of the show's audience, were watching earlier that day or night, SportsCenter will lead the show with it. In fact, it might devote close to half the show to it, with a parade of analysts showing up and talking about it.
  • Witty Banter

Pardon The InterruptionESPN SeriesNumbers Never* Lie

alternative title(s): Sports Center
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