The Lesser Sports

I have to admit, I don’t watch sports, or root for any particular teams.

When people say that they like sports (in the US), they often go with the typical three-letter leagues, such as the MLS, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL: for soccer, American football, basketball, baseball, and hockey respectfully. These leagues are wildly popular and have billions of dollars tied up in all of them, in ad and product deals for players and other connected professionals.

From what I could tell, the programming lineup for ESPN is primarily (but not limited to) the following:

ESPN: Live sports broadcasts, sport talk shows, College football and basketball, NFL shows, SportsCenter.

ESPN2: Used to have the more extreme programming. Now has sports talk shows, MLS (Major League Soccer), Tennis, Arena Football League, WNBA, KHL (Kontinential Hockey League), NASCAR, American Le Mans Series (ALMS – car racing).

ESPN3: Cricket, Rugby, X Games, North American Soccer League, FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Competitive Eating, College Lacrosse, NCAA Basketball.

ESPNU: College Athletics.

This is all traditional sports programming that covers the tastes of most of the masses. 

In the 2004 movie Dodgeball, the game in the climax of the movie was covered by a parody ESPN channel called ESPN 8, “The Ocho”, for “seldom-seen” sports that would not make it to the other ESPN channels:

Subsequently, the subreddit r/theocho gained traction around June 2015 for users to post about some of the niche and outlandish sports that often go unnoticed. It is glorious. There are over 300,000 subscribers, gaining a major boost this past November. Some of the posts include:

  • Ultimate Frisbee Championship
  • Machine (Sheep) Shearing Final
  • Speedrunning – beating video games as fast as possible
  • Scrabble Championship
  • Belt Sander Racing
  • USA National Jump Rope Competition

…and lots of other fun activities, crafts, and other games. I mean, a search for tournaments brings up:

  • Rock Paper Scissors Championship
  • National Axe Throwing Championship
  • Air Hockey Finals
  • Carrom World Cup (disk game)
  • Pipe Tapping Finals – something to do with oil and gas workers
  • World Jump Rope Finals
  • Dog Dancing World Championship
  • Tug of War Final
  • World Tree Felling Championship
  • and, of course, Extreme Dodgeball Championship

ESPN even acknowledged their branding in all of this by turning one of their channels into “The Ocho” for one day out of the year for the past two years, bookending a showing of Dodgeball with extreme eating, sumo wrestling championships, Firefighters World Challenge, Disc Golf Championship, a corn hole invitational, Premier League Darts, Best of Chess Boxing, and more.

I propose that a normal network like “The Ocho” would be a smash hit, depending on the footage and scheduling for different leagues and tournaments. They could have a show highlighting the lesser sports that are so low on the totem pole that they do not even deserve their own block of coverage. The anchors and presenters would have to be interesting personalities, able to constantly do their research so that they could watch with the audience and make things interesting. It would require a good amount of work on the back end to organize, but would create a very unique and entertaining network, getting those into sports and games that may not be already. If it couldn’t work as a 24-hour TV network, it could also work as a website or a podcast. The amount of content out there for a network that is willing to showcase these oddities is truly endless, and if curated correctly, could take off.

I imagine such a channel would be very social – for those not in the know, a gathering of friends commentating on the ridiculousness of it all would be commonplace. For those who are a part of these sports, they could broadcast to the world that they are being featured on social media, and have their sport potentially gain some traction. There really is endless opportunity here for a company willing take this on in the right way.

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