Some people – especially fans on the west coast – believe that ESPN has helped create rivalries in sports. A notable one in baseball would be the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox. The thought is ESPN with the TV rights has a stock in creating drama that may or may not exist in an attempt to drive ratings that ultimately will bring a strong financial return on their investment. Occasionally I’ll even read or hear people say, “ESPN doesn’t think the MLB season has started yet because the Yankees-Red Sox haven’t played each other.”
Jim Abbott brought an interesting take on this “theory” being that he played in New York for a couple of seasons in the mid-90′s. That is important because that was well before ESPN reached its massive distribution it currently enjoys. Abbott was asked on 110SportsPodcast.com about the intensity of the rivalry. “It’s pretty intense, I have to say. Being a University of Michigan fan I know a lot about the Ohio State rivalry and how intense that can be. It’s visceral, people literally don’t like each other.
“I’ll never forget as a Yankee I heard about that rivalry, and I didn’t know a lot about it other than what I had heard. Going to Fenway Park for the first time as a Yankee – walking in the hotel lobby – it’s packed with Yankee fans, it’s packed with Red Sox fans and everybody going at it on the radio. Every single sports station was talking about those games, and they had songs and things about the Yankees and Boston. There’s a difference, it is a real gut-level rivalry and I think it predates ESPN.”
So, there you go. Did ESPN create it? No. Do they help perpetuate it, so casuals fans may tune in? Probably so. They are in the entertainment industry and if creating some added drama helps ratings – they will surely do it. Regardless, if fans enjoy the game it doesn’t really matter who created it or didn’t or if it exists or not as long as people gain some sort of entertainment from it.
– For the full interview with Jim Abbott listen to Episode 156 on 110SportsPodcast.com.
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