Category Archives: ESPN Is The Devil

Natty or nothing

This is what things have come to in college football:

In 2018, Ohio State’s football team went 13–1. Its only loss came in a fluke night game on the road against Purdue, which played out of its mind in front of a young fan suffering from cancer. The Buckeyes recovered by scoring 62 points in an upset demolition of their biggest rival, then won the Big Ten, then won the Rose Bowl.

Ramzy Nasrallah, a Columbus native and Ohio State fan who co-founded the blog Eleven Warriors, recently told me that this sequence of events was “disappointing”—a “lackluster, lost season” in which the team’s coaches “screwed themselves.” The tweet he has pinned to the top of his account is from October 2018 and describes that month’s version of the Buckeyes as “the stupidest team I’ve ever seen in my life.”

To understand why he felt this way is to understand that the United States’ most proudly regional sport has become nationalized by ESPN and the College Football Playoff. [Emphasis added.] As a consequence, this is at once the best time ever to be a fan of college football as a sport and the worst time ever to be a fan of almost every major college football team.

That is my problem with the sport in a nutshell.  The morons who think they are geniuses running college football, with plenty of encouragement from Mickey, have convinced themselves that the sport’s future lies in swapping its regional appeal to diehards for that of a more homogeneous, less passionate national one.  And this is exactly what’s it’s about now:

The sport’s most important media outlet is ESPN, whose dominance in the TV, talking head, and online journalism realms has expanded as local papers have withered and died. The network has mostly unchecked power to set college football’s narratives via its studio shows and in-house opinionists. What ESPN naturally considers the defining achievement of a season, now, is earning one of the four spots in the ESPN-broadcasted playoff. One of the top stories on ESPN’s college football page when I was writing this story was about how Georgia and Oregon’s big weekend wins raised the possibility of getting “a second chance” at a “first playoff impression.” ESPN, more than anyone or anything else, is the entity creating those impressions, as major sports media becomes increasingly dominated by takes—provocative, declarative statements of opinion whose effectiveness and virality derive from their capacity to enrage.

College football is not better off for it.

… and when your team does lose, you can ruin your week by reading dozens of articles and Twitter arguments about why and how it did so, then be reminded of your newfound irrelevance by TV production teams whose concerns begin and end with the national race. As Banner Society’s Ryan Nanni told me, “It’s strange, but somehow expanding the playoff slightly has made everyone more worked up. … Everyone just sort of accepted that you could have a solid season and not make the [two-team] BCS title game. We all hated it, but now there’s juuuust enough access that if you’re not one of those four and you theoretically could have been, you fucked up.”

I made the mistake of thinking that expanding the playoff field from the old BCS format of two to the CFP version of four would have little effect on the sport.  The reality is that it’s had an enormous one already, in that it’s helped accelerate the change away from regional focus.  The BCS, by working to have number one and number two face off for all the marbles, had a simple goal of making sure there was a clear number one at the end of every season.  (That’s not the same thing as saying it succeeded in that every season, but it had lots more hits than misses in that regard.)

The CFP, by broadening the field, has morphed the discussion into a more general debate on several fronts — best versus more deserving, relative conference strengths, the value of conference championships, etc.  And, as noted, it’s had the inevitable effect of diminishing the role of the regular season — if you doubt that, maybe you can explain to me why the Big 12 took it upon itself to tack on a conference championship game for a league that has its members play a round robin regular season schedule.

All that, plus the outsized role it’s given ESPN in shaping public perception of the sport.

The damage is done; the horse is out of the barn.  I can’t even say I’m angry about it.  Looking back now, given the money driving college athletics, honestly, I’m a little surprised they held off as long as they did with the CFP.  But they’ve gone down the rabbit hole now and there’s no turning back.  I’m sure that pleases many of you, but I’ll bet in a few years even those of you enthusiastic about postseason expansion will concede that it’s a shame college football lost a little of what made it unique.

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52 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, ESPN Is The Devil

“But it’s very hard to get in the way of the ballot box.”

Here comes California, messing with college football again.

What began as SB 206 in the California assembly— and became known nationally as the Fair Pay To Play Act — has help fuel a revolution in college sports.

Now along comes AB 7, which threatens to play havoc with your Pac-12 kickoff times.

Think those 7:30 p.m. games along the west coast are a too late?

If Assembly Bill 7 becomes law, late-season games on Pac-12 campuses will start at 8:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Assemblymember Kansen Chu — and already approved by voters — AB 7 would place California on Daylight Saving Time all year: No more falling back and springing forward.

California would be permanently sprung forward, with all the lifestyle benefits that come with evening daylight and none of the disruptions to our circadian rhythms caused by changing the clock.

Apparently, if this goes into law in California, Oregon and Washington are prepared to follow suit in short order.  And that would make things inconvenient for Mickey.

The entire West Coast would skip the process of falling back, leaving it two hours behind Eastern Time from early November through early March.

That would create a problem for Pac-12 kickoffs in the final month of the season.

ESPN and Fox use three-and-a-half-hour programming windows (approximately) on football Saturdays, starting with 12 p.m. Eastern and followed by 3:30 p.m., 7 or 8 p.m. and then 10:30 p.m.

The final window is reserved for the Pac-12 — the only Power Five conference capable of starting home games as late as 10:30 p.m. Eastern. (And those are sometimes pushed back to 10:40 or 10:45 p.m.)

If the West Coast doesn’t join the East Coast in falling back, the three-hour difference during Daylight Saving Time would become a two-hour difference from early November through early March.

In order for the Pac-12 games to fill the 10:30 p.m. Eastern window, they would have to start at 8:30 p.m. on the west coast.

Pacific Daylight Time in the winter months would be the same as Mountain Standard Time.

Late games would get later.

Eh, not to worry.  I’m sure Larry Scott’s on the mother.

19 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Pac-12 Football, Political Wankery

TFW you’ve got your broadcast partner’s back

Passage of California’s Fair Pay to Play Act was arguably the biggest story of the week affecting college athletics, but you wouldn’t know that listening to the pregame shows on ESPN and Fox ($$).

Judging from social media and even national news programs, which devoted air to the development, the biggest story in college sports last week was California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing into law the “Fair Pay To Play Act.” SB 206, as it’s known on the books, is set to take effect in 2023 and would allow college athletes in the Golden State to strike endorsement deals and hire agents.

This may turn out to be the most revolutionary game-changing legislation in intercollegiate athletics since Title IX was passed, at the federal level, in 1972. And, with college football being far and away the greatest revenue-producing sport under the NCAA umbrella, you’d think quarterbacks and a few other teammates might stand to gain the most.

And given that ESPN devotes three hours and Fox one hour each Saturday morning to pregame football shows, you’d think — nope. Didn’t happen. Not on ESPN’s College GameDay nor Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff show. Not a moment of either program was spent on SB 206.

Which isn’t to say you wouldn’t have seen stars cashing in on endorsements…

This past Saturday morning, Herbie, Lee Corso, Rece Davis, Desmond Howard and Maria Taylor appeared in a commercial for Home Depot; Herbie, in addition, for Wheels Up; and Rece for Hampton by Hilton. You know what that looks like to us? It looks a lot like college football TV personalities striking endorsement deals and capitalizing on their image.

To be fair, Fox’s Rob Stone and Matt Leinart appeared in an ad for Wendy’s, their program’s sponsor, on Saturday.

Don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you, amirite?

9 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

No Beth Mowins for you!

ESPN is giving you its A-team this Saturday night.

37 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football

“The football gods are watching.”

Honestly, do any of y’all feel this?

No. 3 Georgia and No. 7 Notre Dame are both steeped in rich tradition, but they don’t have much real history together, not as far as actual on-field meetings go. Yet their matchup Saturday feels like one filled with the bad blood, pettiness and season-changing implications that go hand-in-hand with rivalry games.

The “bad blood” evidently is supposed to extend from last year’s CFP, which the Irish made and Dawgs didn’t.  Not sure who’s feeling that now, especially after Georgia laid an egg in the Sugar Bowl.

This just seems like the kind of trumped up stuff Mickey loves to invent, because it’s not enough to have a first-time meeting in Athens between two great programs that both come in ranked in the top ten.  I’ve got the feeling I’ll be really glad I can’t watch College GameDay Saturday.

49 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football, Notre Dame's Faint Echoes

“80 plays vs. 60 commercials.”

Jeez, this is pathetic.

I really don’t want to hear any bullshit suggestions about how to fix college football games being too long.  The issue is obvious; it’s just that nobody has any interest in dealing with it.  Quite the opposite, actually.

32 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

Don’t forget to tape the game.

Knowing how some of you feel about her, this should really goose you into coming to Athens this Saturday.

Hey, at least it’s not the Ocho.

50 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football