I don't watch ESPN much anymore, at least their flagship program Sportscenter, mainly because catch phrases and useless statistics rendered the show nearly unwatchable over the years. Almost in a quiet fashion, however, ESPN has been doing good work with documentary series such as 30 For 30 and in-depth reporting with Outside the Lines. They were behind a great movie this year about Formula 1 racer Ayrton Senna (Senna), and they've hidden the thoughtful sports writing somewhere in the depths of their website's "Page 2." Today, ESPN launched a new web series starring Kenny Mayne called "The Wider World of Sports," which looks to travel around the world in search of other cultures' more oddball, but wildly popular, sports (like soccer...what the heck is that?).
ESPN's Kenny Mayne Web Series, "The Wider World of Sports"
Mayne has always been one of the more likeable personalities on ESPN, and in the first episode of his new series, "The Wider World of Sports," it's pretty amusing to see him try to deal with the language and cultural barrier. Mayne tackles Brazil in this episode, and he talks with futbol star Ronaldinho, explores the intricacies of "dance fighting," or "Capoeira," plays a combination of soccer and volleyball, "Footvolleyball," and we see him try to teach Brazilian kids the wonderful game of American Football:
We even see something that likely wouldn't be seen in most series: a moment where Mayne actually nearly gets into a street fight.
Every Wednesday for 6 weeks, Mayne will be in a new country spanning 5 different continents, and his trip looks to be divided into 5 easily-digested segments on ESPN.com. Some of the highlights include the King's Cup: the elephant polo tourney in Thailand, a Par-3 hole of extreme golf played on a mountain in South Africa, stick fighting, and Irish road bowling. This all sounds pretty interesting, and with Mayne you're likely to get some laughs along the way. It's a good series for ESPN. It reminds me a bit of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, but with sports.