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Scott D. Pierce: ‘60 Minutes Sports’ promises to go deep
Sports on TV » Is it Showtime’s answer to HBO’s Real Sports?

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Sports fans looking for in-depth reporting don’t have a lot of options on TV. There’s lots of live game coverage and plenty of recaps, but it’s harder to find thoughtful reports.

Which is the thought behind "60 Minutes Sports," the new monthly series that airs on premium cable channel Showtime.

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"I think that part of our mandate is to be current, to be investigative, to be made up of original reporting," said executive producer Jeff Fager, "which I don’t think there’s enough of in broadcast journalism."

Oh, ESPN does the occasional investigative piece. And HBO has "Real Sports." You could certainly argue that "60 Minutes Sports" is Showtime’s answer to "Real Sports."

But you can’t really argue that there’s just too darn much investigative, in-depth sports reporting.

"What is the difference between ‘60 Minutes’ and ‘60 Minutes Sports’?" Nothing," said Fager, who’s not only the executive producer of both shows but the chairman of CBS News. "It’s the same quality. It’s the same team."

And the goal is to be something other than just another sports show. This isn’t a studio highlights show. It isn’t a bunch of sports reporters arguing with each other. This is an anthology of reports on sports-related topics.

"This isn’t just a sports show," said correspondent Lara Logan. "This is not where we are going to be trying to get every big name in sports to be on the show. It’s not a sports talk show.

"It’s a news program. It’s ‘60 Minutes,’ but in the sports arena."

The premiere episode features an interview with Lionel Messi, the world’s best soccer player; an update on the Lance Armstrong doping scandal; and a profile of free solo climber Alex Honnold. New episodes will premiere the first Wednesday of each month on Showtime, with repeat airings throughout the month.

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Up next, we’re promised a behind-the-scenes-at-the-Super Bowl report the likes of which we’ve never seen before. And among the upcoming reports is one on competitive darts. Really.

"I’ve been in sports in the news world since 1982 when I started to work at Sports Illustrated," said correspondent Armen Keteyian. "So I’ve done investigative work. My reputation was built on investigative journalism. And sports now, I think, is probably the greatest landscape to tell stories in right now in this country. It’s as emotional, it’s got as much character, it’s got as much drama and conflict and issues as anything that’s happening in our country, maybe, outside of politics in Washington."

Showtime is owned by CBS, so the presence of "60 Minutes Sports" on the pay-cable network isn’t altogether unexpected.

Except that CBS actually owns a sports channel - the CBS Sports Network — and you can’t help but wonder how it’s possible that "60 Minutes Sports" isn’t on there. Fager insisted that it was because the idea came from one of his producers who works for both Showtime and CBS.

"He pitched it to both of us, because he produces ‘Inside the NFL,’" Fager said. "It’s just a great idea. And to be on Showtime, particularly at this moment where it’s just on fire, is a very exciting prospect for us."

So … could it be at in part because the CBS Sports Network is not on fire?

"No," Fager insisted. "It wasn’t in the discussion. If it had come up first, maybe we’d be doing it there."

Not altogether sure that’s entirely the truth … but that doesn’t make "60 Minutes Sports" any less watchable.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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