My Biggest Beef With ESPN
It must be understood that I am a fan of ESPN. I use their product almost every day. As a sports fan for 30+ years, I have watched sports evolve, and ESPN evolve with them. The problem is that ESPN has shaped the evolution of sports to suit their needs. They are on 24 hours a day, now on three channels, so they need the sports fanatic to keep viewership up. Logically, they cater to these sports fanatics, which is fine. Except most people aren’t sports fanatics. They don’t want to watch their favorite team practice. They don’t care if the third string Quarterback on their rival team got a DUI. I love sports enough to write a blog about it. I still don’t watch my favorite team practice. I also don’t tune into ESPN at 3AM because I know that a particular sports personality(since they are no longer reporters) will paint my favorite team in the best light.
On the eve of the first season with a division one college football playoff, let me explain how ESPN has helped shape college football, and why that is a bad thing. When I first started watching college football in 1981, there were 16 bowl games. 9 of them were decided by a touchdown or less. It was phenomenal. Every game seemed to mean something. The Big School playing the little school, the Yankee school playing the Southern school. The West Coast offensive juggernaut going against the Midwest defense. There was no national championship game that season. I know that sounds sacrilegious in today’s football. And that’s ESPN’s fault. College football isn’t nearly the same game I grew up watching, and that’s not cool.
A fool’s Errand
To a rational thinking person, determining a champion for division 1 college football is not a possibility. 125 teams, and, at most 15 games per team. That means most teams play roughly 10% of the teams out there. So with that small of a sample size, how can you determine who can play in a 4 team playoff? In a sport where match-ups play such a significant role? And weather? And home field advantage? Throw in 22 and under kids that have good games and bad, and football teams that are different each and every week, and you can really tell who the best is? If the talking heads really knew that much about football, they wouldn’t be on ESPN, they would be putting 100k a week on college football games in Vegas. When I started watching college football, there was a debate at the end of the season on who was the best team. Did head to head matter? How about when you lost? Schedule? Injuries? Now it’s seen as a given that the two teams that play for the championship are the two best teams, and the winner of that one game is the champion. And how do you determine those two teams? A vote that includes the teams that are vying for those two spots. Ridiculous. Throw in some conference allegiance and regional bias and you have full on ludicrous.
Fanatics are obsessed with being the best. They need a champion. As soon as the season is over, win or lose, they turn on ESPN, or tune in to the radio hoping one of the prognosticators will pick their favorite team to win the title. There are plenty of them, and with few exceptions all tend to pick different teams. Curious, since it’s so easy to pick the champion at the end of the year. And great for a station trying to fill programming on a 24 hour news cycle. No title, no fanatic obsessively watching ESPN. So ESPN is determined to give them their champion, and sometimes to take them away. What better way to make more money off of college football than to prolong the “season” by making the champion really not the champion, because of scandal! But that’s another post for another day. Believe me I will get to it.
Where This Horrible Journey Ends
There are some big money interests in college football that didn’t want to change their money making, so it took ESPN 30+ years to finally get a more definitive champion. As horrible as those bowl committees and such were, they stalled the inevitable, and that is a good thing. The future of college football is not bright. The model ESPN will be advocating more, now that the big bad bowls are on the way out, is the college basketball model. What better way to keep the fanatic’s interest 24/7 during the regular season than lesson the importance of the regular season? “It’s ok that you lost those games, you had injuries and weather and there was a blue moon, you are really going to be the champions in the 65 and a half team playoff! Now over to the other guy, to massage the ego of another fan base, and he is going to put your favorite team down, so you stay tuned in!”
I love watching my favorite team. When we win, I am happy. When we lose, I am sad, but my penis doesn’t shrink, and no one dies, so I get over it. Based on the fact that there are 125 division 1 teams, that means my team should win a championship ever 125 years. They have done considerably better than that, so a lack of championships isn’t why I am against them. It’s just they are not real. They weren’t real in the 40s when some teams played less than 8 games, and they aren’t real now. I like debating who was really the best team each year, and wish that ESPN would advocate more inter-conference play during the season, and bowl games played closer to the regular season, and on truly neutral fields/alternating home fields. Then we could debate the 5 or 6 teams that have a claim to the title all off season, and then watch the next season and see what unfolds before claiming a champion.
Biggest edit EVER
My team won the championship that year. After losing in horrible fashion to a team that finished the season unranked. Was Ohio State the best team? I don’t think so. Did they deserve to be champions? No. No one did. No one ever does. Too little games, especially against lesser competition. I believed it when I wrote it, and I believe it now.