A confession: I am not a sports fan, and rarely turn on the TV to get a score or a highlight of anything. And yet I watch SportsCenter — indirectly, anyway — every time I see a Daily Show, a Keith Olbermann Countdown or even a certain brand of smart-assed commercial. For sports fans, it’s delivered the news and numbers, at all hours of the day, since ESPN began in 1979. For TV at large, it pioneered a kind of loose, allusive hipster humor, part Caddyshack, part Monty Python — “Bring me the finest meats and cheeses in all the land!”—that’s spread throughout cable and even to news desks. Its best host pairings — like Olbermann and Dan Patrick, or Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen—were as much comic duos as newsmen. (Aaron Sorkin took on the format in his highbrow sitcom Sports Night.) As a sports show, I’m sure SportsCenter was a fine enough staple; as a TV comedy, it was en fuego.
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