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SportsNation is a part of ESPN's afternoon block of "journalists yell about sports" shows (along with Numbers Never Lie, Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable, Jim Rome Is Burning, Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn), hosted by by Colin Cowherd and Charissa Thompson (formerly Michelle Beadle). Unlike the rest of said shows, this one utilizes gratuitous amounts of Web 2.0 wizardry to gauge the response of viewers voting on the SportsNation section of ESPN's website, in a format that often involves guessing the predictions of the users in various formats, inspecting the top 3 best/worst/embarrassing moments of the day, and looking at sports-related viral videos.

The show usually follows this pattern:

  • The first segment, The A Block, is just discussion over poll results. Nothing too fancy.
  • Three Cheers.
  • A desk game with a guest playing against Colin.
  • Three Jeers.
  • Power Rankings.
  • Game Time, the segment where the show temporarily turns into a Game Show:
    • The B.S. Meter: How B.S. is this statement?
    • Number Crunch: Guess the percentage of voters who picked a particular choice, much like Plinko actually.
    • Walk the Plank, where the player has to (again) guess the percentage of voters who picked a particular choice. For every percentage point they're off, their cartoon avatar gets one step closer to walking off the plank. Many bad pirate-themed puns ensue.
    • Multi-Poll Choice, in which Michelle has to (once again) guess the percentage of voters who picked a particular choice, out of four answers. Colin dresses as Ron Burgundy while hosting the segment and makes many bad Burgundy-esque jokes.
  • Three Cheers.
  • Have Some!, a segment showing certain athletes being told to "have some" by having otherwise successful plays be foiled.
  • Another desk or screen game.
  • Weird Web Stories.
  • Pulse of the Nation, a segment like the A block but with another guest joining Colin and Michelle at the desk.
  • Three Tears
  • Winners and Losers
  • Goodbye
Tropes used in Sports Nation include:
  • Affectionate Parody:
    • "SportsNation's Mad Money", BOOYAH!
    • Colin's Ron Burgundy imitation.
  • Amusing Injuries: "Have Some!" is based on things like particularly fearsome NFL hits. Three Tears/Jeers might have them too or in the latter people just tripping over themselves in silly ways.
  • Audience Participation: The show is built around the polls in which the audience votes on ESPN's SportsNation website, for which the show was named.
  • Aside Glance: When Charissa Thompson guest-hosts, she glances at the audience/camera every time Colin or someone else says some variation of the phrase "numbers don't lie."
  • Catch Phrase: Cowherd opens every episode with "HELLOOOOOO nation! I'm Colin Cowherd, that's Michelle Beadle! This is SportsNation, the show that {{[[[Mad Libs Catchphrase]] insert topical reference here}}]."
  • Crossover: Apart from various other ESPN shows' hosts occasionally appearing or guest-hosting, one of the show's Halloween episodes had the set dressed to look like the Pardon the Interruption set. Tony Kornheiser even made an appearance, telling Colin and Michelle to "stop stealing [PTI's] stuff!"
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Michelle calls the randomized board sometimes used at the :40 segment (the "Another desk or screen game" segment mentioned in the show's pattern above) "The Awesome Board of Awesomeness." (Occasionally, when Michelle hits the randomizing button, especially when there is a person's picture on the board she doesn't want to choose, she'll say "No whammies!")
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Colin invokes this with his never-ending man-crush on Tom Brady. In fact, early on in the show's run, whenever Brady was mentioned, a clip of Colin saying "I love Tom Brady" would pop up.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The hosts insist the B.S. Meter actually stands for "bologna statements".
  • Guest Host: It's probably easier to make a list of the ESPN personalities that haven't guest-hosted or appeared on the Nation. Much like Pardon the Interruption there have even been shows where both Colin and Michelle have been absent.
    • As of January 2011, Michelle's sub will usually be Charissa Thompson. Colin's replacement list remains fluid, with Skip Bayless or Charissa's co-host Michael Smith usually filling the void.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Colin's gig before (and during) Sports Nation is The Herd on ESPN Radio.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Pretty much the entire point of "Walk the Plank".
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: The advert for the show on ESPN America has a clip of Michelle doing a sexy dance around Colin who claims "I am unaffected by this".
  • Rule of Three: Three segments - Three Cheers, Three Tears and Three Jeers - of three clips each.
  • Running Gag: Far too many.
    • The aforementioned Brady man-crush.
    • Michelle's use of "The Akron Hammer," followed by a hammer sound effect, as a nickname for LeBron James, before retiring it after LeBron's move to the Miami Heat.
    • The hosts' use of extremely lame pirate-themed puns when playing Walk the Plank, complete with rimshots.
  • Sexy Santa Dress: Michelle wore one of these for the show's first Halloween episode, which was Christmas-themed, and boy did she wear it well.
  • Something Completely Different: The show has had several special episodes, including sports video tournaments and live shows from locations around the country.
  • Spin-Off: ABC's Winners Bracket. Same set, same Beadle, but a weekly show with a bracket tournament of that week's highlights (and a countdown of the exact opposite)
  • Take That: In response to the NFL's recent crackdown on violent hits, December 1, 2010's episode featured a new game, Were They Suspended?
  • Walking Techbane: A minor example - Skip Bayless can never get the BS Meter to work right when he guest hosts the show.
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