George Will

``If we had ESPN 22 years ago, we wouldn't have any children.''
     -- a college coach, 1990
     WASHINGTON -- You are in a ballpark with your 12-year-old. The shortstop makes a sparkling play and your child murmurs, ``Web gem.'' As a slugger approaches the plate your child says, with a hint of drollery, ``You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him.''  When the slugger hits one 400 feet, the child says, ``That'll make the Top Ten Plays.''
  Congratulations: Your child is bilingual. He or she speaks SportsCenterese, the lingua franca of ESPN nation, the capital of which is Bristol, Conn., where 27 satellite dishes scarf up 40,000 feeds a year, the best of which are sent around the clock to sports addicts, such as the viewer who, in 1987, said: ``Please show the Nebraska-UCLA game at 6:00 as I have a 5:00 Mass and would have to find a priest to replace me if you show it earlier.''

     ESPN will be a quarter-century old on Sept. 7. Measurements of ``brand resonance'' show that among 138 brands, including Coca-Cola and McDonalds, ESPN ranks first among men. Each week more than 90 million people are exposed to ESPN media -- ESPN (there are locally produced SportsCenters in Canada, Brazil, a Spanish version for the rest of Latin America, China, India and Taiwan), ESPN2, ESPN Classic, (2.3 million page views in a peak hour), and ESPN The Magazine (a circulation of 1.7 million in just five years).

     This stunning growth reflects ways America has changed in a quarter of a century. The change can be measured in money.

     In 1979, when the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network began, the average major league baseball salary was $113,558 and pitcher Nolan Ryan became the first million-dollar-a-year athlete in team sports. Today the average baseball salary ($2.55 million) has increased 2,241 percent and there are 1,702 million-dollar athletes. In 1979 broadcasters paid the National Football League $8.8 million annually; today the fee is approximately $2.25 billion, an increase of more than 25,400 percent.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read George Will's column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.

Due to the overwhelming enthusiasm of our readers it has become necessary to transfer our commenting system to a more scalable system in order handle the content.