A Fascinating Look Back at ESPN’s “Playmakers”

SportsBusiness Daily

SportsBusiness Daily

For just a moment today I’m going to ask you to take a step back in time with me. A time when things were much simpler. When communication amongst most college kids was still via AOL Instant Messanger, when ESPN had no competition, and when the show Playmakers ruled the roost. Yep, Playmakers. You know, the short-lived ESPN fictional drama that was a little too well-liked and well-promoted for the NFL’s tastes?

The show revolved around a pro football team known as the Cougars, and touched on topics ranging from drug use to violence to over-the-top owners.

As the show hits it’s 10 year anniversary this year, TDDaily sat down with many of the show’s key figures and producers for a fascinating look at some of the behind-the-scenes work that it took to get the show made. The most interesting aspect of the interviews, however, has to do with the eventual cancellation of the show after just one season. The reason? Direct and indirect pressure from the NFL to shut it down.

Of course the reality is that Playmakers wasn’t just critically acclaimed, it also proved to be all too accurate. Since it’s original airing many of the issues detailed have come to fruition in real life.

In the end it’s hard to blame ESPN from backing away from a fictional show when their biggest cash cow says to do so. But just like Playmakers was a sign of things to come for the NFL, so to was it a sign of things to come for ESPN. Just this year ESPN once again backed off a project with PBS detailing concussions, largely believed to be due to pressure again from the NFL.

Ultimately the lines between fiction and reality have become all the more blurred, and it had little to do with playmakers, and much more to do with ESPN and the NFL.

Comments are closed.