Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pan Am Coverage Doesn't Soar

So help me, I was expecting absolutely no U.S. television coverage of this year's Pan American Games - the Olympic-style sporting event open to all athletes from the Western Hemisphere, held every four years in the common year that immediately precedes a leap year - but ESPN2 has been showing regular coverage of the games every night since they opened in Toronto.  Maybe it's because they're being held so conveniently close to the United States (the last American city to host them was Indianapolis, in 1987).  Maybe it's because of the growing interest in the Pan Ams due to the growing Hispanic population in the U.S., as the Americas are dominated by Spanish-speaking countries.  Maybe it's because someone realized that the United States dominates the Pan Ams like it dominates the Olympics, and so there are plenty of opportunities to see our boys and girls win gold medals.  Whatever the reason - and I could make conjectures all day (and would if I didn't have to get off the damn PC as quickly as possible) - I clearly appreciate the coverage, and I have indeed been watching.
Alas, the style of coverage leads a great deal to be desired.  NBC may have had (and may yet have) problems with its Olympic coverage, but the problems ESPN2 has with covering the Pan Ams are all too obvious.  ESPN2 jumps back and forth between one event and another, going from swimming to wrestling to baseball and back to swimming with a blink of an eye.  There's not much context and not much involvement in the competition, and that sort of coverage doesn't generate much excitement for the games.  I have yet to see a Pan Am soccer game shown in full on TV, and if there was such a broadcast, I missed it. I understand there's more coverage on ESPN3.  Great - now I have to find it in my five-hundred-channel universe!
That said, the mere fact that ESPN channels are covering the Pan American Games at all is a good thing.  It casts light on a major sporting event - like, it only involves half the world! - that has been ignored for far too long.
The next Pan American Games are in Lima, Peru in 2019.  Lima, I understand, is in the same time zone as Toronto and New York.  I hope that gives ESPN the incentive to cover those games, and I hope they do a better job then.   

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