After a reign that changed the culture of the world's largest sports entertainment network, ESPN executive vice president Mark Shapiro has now left the network to work for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder with his new venture with Six Flags. Ignoring all "Quite Frankly With Yosemite Same" jokes for a moment, we're going to be taking a look today at Shapiro's tenure atop the network, what his success were, what his failures were and what ESPN (and the people left behind) might look like in his absence.
First, a look at his HITS:
• "Pardon The Interruption." You can hate this show for what it spawned — and we'll get into that a little later today — but the combination of Kornheiser and Wilbon continues to enlighten and amuse. Imagine if it had been Kornheiser and Mike Lupica, as it has been rumored was the original combination. (We've often wondered if Lupica, once the golden boy of those middle-aged sportswriters, looks around at the TV success of Kornheiser, Albom, Feinstein, et al, and dreams of stabbing them in their sleep.)
• "Monday Night Football" on ESPN. We're all terrified of Joe Theismann as the NFL's flagship analyst, and on the whole it will be strange that you'll have to pay for cable to watch MNF. But it was an aggressive move that ensures the network will remain at the forefront of televised sports for years to come.
• "Playmakers" and "3". The other original movies and shows were clunkers, but despite the NFL's protests, "Playmakers" scored big ratings, and pretty much everyone we know back in Southern Illinois owns "3" on DVD.
• Dropping the NHL. The extended labor woes for the league lowered the value of any possible deal to the point that an obscure cable network specializing in fishing shows and "Survivor" reruns was able to scoop him the remnants. You could make an argument that the Outdoor Life Network could use the NHL to build a challenge to ESPN's supremacy ... but we're not even sure NHL commish Gary Bettman could say that with a straight face.
Have any thoughts on Shapiro's hits or misses of your own? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Doc Is Not In [NY Post] (second item)
(Later today: The Misses)