ESPN Classic: A Thing Of The Past

by Kevin Burton

   ESPN will discontinue the ESPN Classic channel at the end of this year according to published reports.

   You know what this means? I will have to come up with a new joke to explain the futility of my Cincinnati Reds. I have been saying I still love to watch them, only now on it’s on ESPN Classic.

   Classic would show me the championship years and skip all the dull parts, even if they did show us losing a championship occasionally.

    But all that is gone now. The times, and channels, they are a-changing.

   “According to Sports Business Journal, ESPN has started telling distributors that it’s shutting down ESPN Classic on Jan. 1,” wrote Nick Bromberg of Yahoo Sports. “The channel was first formed as the Classic Sports Network in 1995 and ESPN purchased it in 1997 and has used it to show replays of historic and memorable sporting events.”

   I never tired of watching the Miracle On Ice, USA vs USSR Olympic hockey game, Cal’s “the band is out on the field!” football win over Stanford, or anything heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali did in his prime. 

   I think it was ESPN Classic that I could rely on to play the old NFL Films half-hour Super Bowl shows as Super Sunday approached each year.  That was much appreciated, especially when my favorite teams were not in contention.

   NFL films was just the best in the old days. We’re talking about linebacker Jack Lambert of the Steelers breathing fire, Lynn Swan defying gravity, Hank Stram coach of the Super Bowl IV Chiefs imploring his team to “keep on matriculating the ball down the field.”

   It was Classic.   

   We get our old sports highlights in other ways now.

   “Before the internet exploded, ESPN Classic was a mainstay of cable packages across the country,” Bromberg wrote.  “But as replays of games have been uploaded to YouTube and available across the internet, ESPN started de-emphasizing the channel in the 2010s as it focused on other networks like the SEC Network.”

   “While ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and even ESPNEWS are part of most standard cable packages along with the SEC Network and ACC Network, ESPN Classic is now mostly confined to sports packages and exists as an on-demand video channel on the internet.

That on-demand channel is also going away, according to SBJ,” Bromberg wrote.

   ESPN Classic is available in only two million homes, according to CNN.  That compares to the 85 million homes that receive ESPN and ESPN2.

   We don’t have any of the ESPN networks any more.  The only product they have that I can’t live without is Pardon The Interruption, which I get via podcast.  We are surviving on the few college basketball and football games that are available on free TV. 

   Turns out I don’t necessarily need to see Toledo or UTEP play sports.

   When I moved to Alaska, the VERY first thing I did after signing my newspaper guy contract and my lease, was to have cable installed, especially because of ESPN.

   “ESPN Classic did show some live events in its history, especially when ESPN needed to push the start of a game to a different channel because another event ran long,” Bromberg wrote.

  “The first live event in the channel’s history came in 2000 when it showed the Kingdome’s demolition in Seattle. Danica Patrick’s only IndyCar Series win was also shown on ESPN Classic.”

   “ESPN Classic becomes the second sports channel to announce its closure at the end of the year,” Bromberg wrote.

   “NBC is phasing out NBC Sports Network and the channel will go dark on Dec. 31. NBC is moving its sports programming on NBCSN — like the English Premier League and NASCAR — to the USA Network.”

   It could be that the Reds revert to championship form, removing the need for me to talk or joke about their futility, but I’m not holding my breath.

   In any event, here’s a fond goodbye to a longtime friend, ESPN Classic, platform for my video reminiscing about the glory days of the Big Red Machine.

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