Thursday, January 05, 2012

ESPN's Answer to "Matlock"

I thought there could never be another television show I had less interest in watching than the cable news wallpapering of the Iowa caucuses.

Less than 24 hours later, the Orange Bowl was on. Wrong again.

The weirdest thing about the BCS system is that the Bs involved don't seem to grasp how much damage the system does to their individual brands. Back in the old days, every one of the big (then) New Year's Day bowl games had a chance to have an impact on the selection of a fictional/fraudulent national champion. Now, none of them do. They are all Runner-Up Bowls (you have to be old to remember that NFL invention). Some of them, like last night's Orange Bowl, don't reach that status. West Virginia and Clemson belonged in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl at best.

The Orange Bowl was an exhibition game between OK teams played three days after the traditional end of the college season. It's not a question of TV sports fans not wanting to watch it so much as it is the live possibility they'd never realize it was on in the first place. The Cotton Bowl is tomorrow night -- Friday, the night even old people like me have better things to do than the tube.

In the meantime, ESPN will spend hours and hours hyping the BCS title game for next Monday. Nothing wrong with that. But the ordinarily very shrewd gang down at Bristol can't or won't see that what goes for all the bowls goes for their broadcast partner, too. The BCS, because it has a "championship" game that is a faint but recognizable facsimile image of how a playoff would end, causes all the damage to the bowls in terms of audience and prestige that an actual playoff would -- without the compensating freight trains full of $50 bills the network and the schools would be riding on if there WAS a playoff.

I watched the Rose Bowl Monday. Hell of a game. I watched one quarter of the Fiesta Bowl, one drive of the Sugar Bowl, and none of the Orange Bowl. After a weekend of NFL playoff games, LSU and Alabama are going to have to improve on their first encounter if they expect me to hang around until the third quarter.

I bet that's a game plan more than a few football fans have for Monday night. You have to wonder about the point of a spectator sport that's working hard to make its ultimate game a spectator afterthought.


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