Criticism of ESPN has been building greatly over the past few years. As their daily shows move away from highlights and analysis in favor of the new gimmicky debate format (which I for one have been critical of), it can be tough to remember that the Worldwide Leader is the Worldwide Leader for a reason.
Even as their journalistic integrity has been questioned as well, their shows and programs that highlight their journalism have been incredibly solid. Outside the Lines. E:60. Their 30 for 30 series. All have been fantastic with OTL being perhaps their strongest journalistic endeavor.
The 30 for 30 series was launched in 2009 and was another of Bill Simmons' big ideas (also the brainchild and editor behind Grantland). Bringing together big name directors and big time sports stories, 30 for 30 gives a documentary style feel to some of the biggest stories of sports past and present. In the latter half of 2012, 30 for 30 extended their footprint to 30 for 30 Shorts, which air on Grantland as 10-15 minute films.
Now that footprint will be extended even further with ESPN announcing Nine for IX, a 30 for 30 style series documenting nine stories on Title IX. The series will begin on July 2nd with Robin Roberts and Jane Rosenthal serving as the series' executive producers. Watch the trailer for the series here.
The nine stories are titled: "Venus Vs." "Pat XO" "The Diplomat" "No Limits" "Branded" "The '99ers" "Let Them Wear Towels" "Runner" "Swoopes"
This is a great initiative for ESPN. Anytime that the sports world can get more of a gender balance in the stories they hear is a positive. Do I think that this series will have some widespread impact on the industry? No. But I do think that the more people that hear these remarkable stories of these remarkable women, the better.
With the 30 for 30 brand expanding to the Nine for IX series, Bill Simmons' worth to ESPN is further expanded as well. Already thought to be one of the top three paid talents at ESPN (Chris Berman and Rick Reilly round out the top three), Simmons continues to prove that he is well worth the investment.
Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.