Television lacking any special sports shows

I know by reading the above headline that you are thinking, “What are you talking about? There are plenty of special sports shows on television.” I am not talking about shows on stations like ESPN or Fox Sports or whatever other stations are filled with talking heads explaining the games I just watched – and already understand what I just saw. Well, most of the time I understand what I saw. There are times that there is no explanation for what I saw.

Like what for instance? How about the catch that wasn’t a catch that Dez Bryant made against the Green Bay Packers? Remember that one? What a stupid call by the replay officials. Bryant caught the ball over Sam Shields and landed at the half-yard-line. The ball did jiggle, but the ground cannot cause a fumble, so it should not be able to negate a completion when it was clear he had possession for more than a step.

But, that is not what this column is about. It’s about the lack of any special sports programs on television. Again, I am not talking about straight all sports and nothing else shows. I am talking about sitcoms – comedy or dramas or both in one show. The kind I watched when I was a kid growing up in Asbury Park in South Phenix City. Shows we kids talked about the next day. 

Yes, I know some of the pay-per-view channels have developed shows that air weekly and there are those which are aired weekly on some of the all-sports stations like ESPN. But, they are often too political and too unfriendly for family viewers. Like “Eastbound & Down” which aired on HBO. It was too crude and boring to me. Or, how about “1st & 10”? It was another failed attempt, in my opinion, by HBO to draw viewers away from the Big Three – ABC, CBS and NBC. It tried by using a few curse words and a little nudity. It also starred Delta Burke of “Designing Women” fame. I watched it a few times, but not enough to get interested in watching every week.

As a kid, the sitcoms were much, much better – again, that is in my opinion. I am sure most of you probably will not even remember the sports shows I used to watch with dedication.

My favorite one aired on CBS from 1978 to 1981 and was about a white former professional basketball player who becomes the coach for an impoverished high school in South Central Los Angeles. It was the first television ensemble drama that featured a mostly African American cast of characters. The show was created by Bruce Paltrow of “Hill Street Blues” and “My So-Called Life” fame. The show dealt with some important issues for teenagers during those days – drugs, steroids, sexual orientation, sexually transmitted diseases and gambling, among other topics. The show was “The White Shadow.”

Ken Howard played the lead role of Coach Ken Reeves. He also helped develop the show. It was based in part on Howard’s high school days as a white basketball player – the only starter – at a mostly African American high school. Howard based the players on the athletes he played the sport with in high school.

You want to know more about the program? Well, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has released the first two seasons on DVD.

Another sitcom I watched briefly was “Bay City Blues” which aired in 1983 for four episodes – I told you I watched it briefly. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled way too early. It was labeled a flop, but it would have caught on if it had been given a few more episodes for viewers to get into the show. It was produced by Steven Bochco, who went on to produce great shows like “L.A. Law,” “Doogie Howser, MD” and “NYPD Blue.”

The program was about a comedy-drama that aired on NBC. It centered on a Bay City, Calif., minor league baseball team – the Bluebirds – with players varied from young hopefuls to once great players who had been demoted to the lower league. The program dealt with the players’ problems, loves and lives. Michael Nouri played the coach and Kelly Harmon, sister of Mark Harmon, played Nouri’s love interest. Bernie Casey portrayed an over-the-hill baseball player named Ozzie Peoples. The show also starred Dennis Franz as an assistant coach. Franz is best known for his role of Detective Andy Sipowicz on “NYPD Blue.”

There is never enough space allowed in a column to finish a conversation on something controversial. I am sure the subject of this column is controversial for some of you. You may have an opinion of a more current sports sitcom that is your favorite. But, as of right now, I know of no sports sitcom that can touch the quality of the two I mentioned above. There is one more I would have mentioned had there been enough space – “Coach” starring Craig T. Nelson, Jerry Van Dyke and Shelley Fabares. Top that.

By Mark Clark. Clark is a local sports 

writer for The Citizen.