It's become altogether too easy (and boring) to rip on the World Wide Leader, so I was pleased to learn that ESPN is actually in the process of launching a new product that will basically be the Wikipedia of sports.
Curious where Shaquille O'Neal went to college? How many seasons Mickey Mantle played? ESPN wants to break the Google-to-Wikipedia flow chart that so many sports fans turn to for those kinds of answers.
So, it's set to launch ESPNDB.com (the DB stands for database) -- a site it hopes will serve as a sports encyclopedia-archive- statistical compendium. On one level, the goal is simply an ESPN-opedia -- although the content would be thoroughly fact-checked and would come from professionals. (Like Wikipedia, however, there will be some user-generated aspects.)
ESPNDB will debut sometime in the next few days in what is being termed a "pre-beta" stage. The venture has been in development for more than a year, and its operation falls under ESPN's digital media group.
The rise of a two-click solution for finding sports information online -- via a search on Google and then a click-through to Wikipedia -- cannot be understated as an impetus for ESPNDB.
"It was a significant factor," says Jim Noel, the vice president who oversees ESPNDB. "Wikipedia has experienced tremendous growth over the last five years ... and we believe that we can offer a better, more definitive, more credible resource for finding facts and figures and information than anybody else."
While ESPNDB's number of pages might someday be uncountable, initially it will focus simply on the coming NFL Draft. Still, even with that somewhat limited scope, there will be more than 500 pages, including profiles of 400 potential draftees.
While ESPNDB has two editorial staffers of its own, some of its content will come from ESPN's Stats & Information group. That unit is constantly generating a deluge of profiles, statistical packages and other data for multiple ESPN platforms. But much of its output ends up on the "cutting-room-floor," which could eventually be parked on ESPNDB.
After the draft, ESPNDB plans to build a similar reference hub for the NBA Finals in June. ESPNDB may be able to gain a leg up on Wikipedia and other reference sites with video it can offer culled from ESPN's vast library. (MediaPost)
This sounds like it could be pretty amazing if they don't screw it up, particularly if they decide to include a user-friendly data search option for all of the major sports. Because sometimes you just need to know how left-handed batters on American League teams fared during night games in June of 1972. All joking aside, this could be the best thing ESPN has done in years.