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Article:Wimbledon, Corporate Jingoism and the myth of the Instant Classic

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Perhaps it was the greatest Wimbledon final of them all. Even better then all those Borg vs McEnroe matches. Even the highlights are riveting.

It was Rafael Nadal finally breaking Roger Federer, elevating the best rivalry tennis has ever had to the stratosphere. Nadal, a wizard on clay and Federer, who had won the last five Wimbledons, going the distance on Championship Sunday.

Not a blowout, just five evenly matched sets and two tiebreaks, each one barely going the way they did. Federer could have won it, but he folded. In what looks like the year of his decline, Nadal finally got over the hump. In everything but name, it was an Instant Classic.

If ESPN had any guts, any at all, they would break their corporate jingoism, break the unwritten rule that no non-ABC programming is an instant classic, and replay it.

For serious: that is a rule. Perhaps a rule that’s unspoken, but a rule nonetheless.

Think about it. Of all the recent great moments in sports, which have been called Instant Classics by The Worldwide Leader? Game five of the 2005 NBA Finals, a double-overtime duel between Dirk Novinsky and Steve Nash (or, depending on perspective, the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns) two NBA seasons ago game four of the 2008 NBA Finals.

But not the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Or last year’s 16-inning NL Wild Card play-in game. Or Super Bowl XLII. Sorry folks, those aren’t ESPN Properties – and ESPN Classic only shows ESPN Properties.

Maybe the network should be called ESPN’s Classics.

But, at the same time, it’s an understandable move. In an age where people toggle between two games (or more), more and more networks are advertising during their sport broadcasts. Fox does it, ESPN does it, and even TBS does it.

This isn’t even to mention the tickers each network uses: the score clocks that we’ve, as a sport watching society, have grown used to don’t just tell us the score or the time left: they also remind us what network we’re watching.

Avoiding this advertising for rival networks has always been an issue for ESPN Classic: Way back in the day, when it was simply known as Classic Sports, they used to block out the logos, replacing it with their own instead.

Of course, that was the days when scores were superimposed over the whole screen occasionally, not always present in some corner.

Granted there is a simple solution to this: have a solid ESPN Classic logo over the network’s bug in the corner, or use their own graphics to show the score (NBA Network already does this on occasion).

But to simply pretend there are no Instant Classics on any other network is not just dishonest, it reeks of corporate jingoism.

Remember, more articles like this can be seen on my Sports Media blog, Jock Talk


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