Friday, September 19, 2014

My Descent into Madness on the DC Metro

“I feel great today.”

Those were my regrettable thoughts as I bounded from my apartment, headed to the Judiciary Square Metro station. I did feel great. I had worked out the night prior. My Frosted Mini-Wheats hit the spot. The weather was a postcard – creeping up through the 60’s with bright sunshine and not a hint of humidity.

I walked at a leisurely pace – I wasn’t just on time, I was early. I took a deep breath to soak in the beauty of the day. What did “About Time” teach us about life? We must savor every good moment, no matter how small.

As I walked past the National Building Museum, I saw people exiting the Metro station. This is always a good sign because if people are leaving the station en masse, that means people have been delivered en masse.

I felt so good I even stood to the right on escalator – why rush? Today is a good day.

Upon entering the station and swiping my SmarTrip, I realized I had gravely underestimated the Metro’s power to destroy. It was the Red Line to Glenmont was on time. But I take the Red Line to Shady Grove for a connection and that platform was too crowded. The upcoming train sign flashed the worst possible option. It was all blank. Terror takes over.

Ding! Ding! The PA speaker in the station grabbed my attention. “We are now experiencing delays on the Red Line to Shady Grove. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

The Metro is always apologizing. Much like the NFL, they always say sorry but never do anything to change.

I fire up Interpol on my iPod and hope for the best. I don’t have meetings at work until 10 a.m. so I have time to play with. My panic level is medium. It is not for others.

“What is happening?” one rider asks.

“Who the fuck knows?” answers his friend.

“Is a train coming?” a blonde woman asks the crowd.

“Who knows?” answers the previous friend, cleaning up his language for the lady.

Five minutes pass. I’m now listening to “No I in Threesome” and nervously pacing. The upcoming train sign still has no update. The loudspeaker apologizes again. The natives are growing restless. I’ve read this story before.

Ten minutes have now passed. The “Henreich Maneuver” is about to begin in my ears. I long for the West Coast. I realize I am now biting my fingernail. The descent has begun.

15 minutes have now passed. The upcoming train sign still has no update. There have been four apologies without any information. I am getting no cell service. I am cut off from the world.

The sign finally updates after 19 minutes. It says the next train will be there in…15 fucking minutes.

“Give me a break!” I scream to no one in particular. I’m done. I will walk to my Orange Line connection. I storm up the broken escalators – because of course the escalator is broken – and walk briskly back to civilization.

“The train is holding at Union Station,” a Metro worker tries to console me.

“So…” I stutter, “Who gives a…” I pause, “That doesn’t….” I give up. “It’s been 20 minutes! Ridiculous!”

The Metro worker seems unconcerned. I swipe my card again on the way out. I have paid WMATA $1.40 for the pleasure of waiting 22 minutes for nothing. They just stole my money. I am angry.

The sun greets me and the anger subsides. It’s still a beautiful day. A 13-block walk may do me good. I stride with pace but I feel my urge to kill fading. I will be okay.

I walk into Metro Center and hit a glorious Silver Line train as I enter the platform. It is now past 9 a.m. and the train is nearly empty.

“Ahh,” I audibly sigh. We’ve made it. Life is good.

For six stops it remains so. I will be late but not late enough to warrant the embarrassing “Metro Fail” email to work. I have surviv-

Nope. No I haven’t. Our train stops outside of Virginia Square and doesn’t move. It doesn’t move. It doesn’t move.

I begin pleading with God. “Just let me get off this train. Please. I beg.”

I have not been a good Catholic because the train doesn’t move. The conductor alerts me to the fact we are now holding so they can begin single-tracking.

I hang my head in shame. Our Love to Admire is finishing. I do what any sane man does when needing to unleash aggression – press play on Kanye’s Yeezus.

If I can go overboard complaining about train delays, then Kanye is my spirit animal – comparing himself to a slave while raking in millions and having his wedding televised. His anger is misguided and pure. I understand.

The train finally arrives at Ballston Metro after another lengthy wait. I show up in the office 53 minutes late. I left my apartment nearly two hours ago. It has been a long, terrible, awful morning. But I survived.

Or did I?

“Fucking Metro!”

That’s the text I receive as I walk out of the office to conclude my day. I am not fazed. She takes a different line than me in a different part of the city. When I arrive back in Ballston, a Silver Line train is arriving.

I plop down in an empty seat in the first car and lay my head back. It has been a long frustrating day but—

We stop.

“God dammit!!” I yell in the empty car.

“We are holding. We are awaiting further instructions. We apologize for the inconvenience,” the conductor says.

Jesus Christ. This is it. This is the end.

I start contemplating my life’s failures. What if I died right now? What if I never get home? My mind races a million miles an hour, thinking about how I should be a better man, or at least a less crappy version. I grab the fat on my side and desperately wish I was in better shape. I rub my forehead in an attempt to make the pain go away.

It is of no use. My descent is complete. That’s what delays do to you. They beat you down. They capture you alone with your thoughts. No one wants that. I want to be home.

But I couldn’t leave if I tried. The train is stuck in a tunnel. I have no cell service. The train car is nearly empty. Life could end in the most depressing way possible.

The train finally starts to move. It will start and stop frequently over the next 35 minutes to get me back to Metro Center. Every stop brings more feelings of doom. Every start a cruel tease of freedom.

Upon arrive to Metro Center, the weary Orange Line passengers – yes, the train somehow changed from Silver to Orange without notification – are greeted by an angry mob of delayed riders on an overcrowded platform. The Red Line is fucked up too.

I push my way out of the station, struggling to find room in the dangerous conditions – a brief thought of a fire overtaking the station urges me to leave even quicker.

I begin the 14-block walk home. I will stop at the McDonald’s by Gallery Place because, shame or no shame, I need a God damn cheeseburger and fries.

I wasted nearly four hours of my life on Tuesday traveling to and from work. For nearly half of that, I was waiting.

Yes, for 120 minutes of this precious thing we call life, I was standing or sitting still – awaiting a Metro train to move for me. This makes me very sad. This makes me very angry. This makes me mad.

If you like reading me descend into madness, here’s when I did so at the DMV.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hope Has Returned to UConn Football. Will Winning?

On Friday night, ESPN will televise a college football game between two teams that have yet to beat an FBS team in 2014. For most of the country, this is cause for outrage. For me, this is cause for unbridled excitement and unabashed anticipation.

Yes, UConn will play USF in football Friday night. And I cannot wait. For the first time since Randy Edsall left, there is actual, honest-to-goodness momentum around the UConn football program.

Stop laughing. Right now. I’m serious.

When I first called for Paul Pasqualoni to be fired shortly into his second season, it was due to the crippling apathy that had overwhelmed Rentschler Field. It continued in 2013, most notably at the Michigan game, when my Section 231 could never wrap our heads around UConn leading the ranked Wolverines. We waited for the other shoe to drop. Eventually, it did.

As the reporters covering UConn deliver competing theories about empty seats – as if it is some great mystery a team with 3 straight losing seasons can’t sell tickets – they are missing a great story. It’s the problem with the press box as you don’t get a feel for what’s actually happening.

In week 1, UConn played a Top 25 BYU team and lost pretty badly. Despite the obvious disparity in talent and experience, the crowd rallied around the Huskies. When Josh Marriner dove in from a yard out to make it 21-7, our section exploded with the same fury as back in 2009 when we beat USF.

Hope is a powerful, if very strange thing.

The performance against Stony Brook is best to be forgotten but it was a win in September – a feat that eluded UConn a year ago – and there were promising signs. There is talent on the field, if young talent. The team plays hard. The team believes. The team thought they could beat Boise State last week.

After three quarters, UConn was down 24-21 and was actually outplaying the heavily favored Broncos. For the first time in four years, there was a palpable sense that UConn could win the game. It is remarkable how the game slipped away just like that Michigan game, with Chandler Whitmer throwing an ill-timed interception.

In 2013, the crowd expected it. In 2014, the crowd was surprised it happened.

If you’re not a UConn football fan, you are likely reading this with befuddled look my dog gives me when a treat isn’t coming her way. “What do you mean?” she asks.

It is impossible to explain to an outsider – to someone who hasn’t sat in the emptying upper deck for three painful years – how toxic the culture around the program had become. People stopped going to games. People stopped buying season tickets. People threw in the towel.

That doesn’t mean they left the program entirely. They were waiting for a sign of momentum. They were hoping to see a spark that would give them pause about staying home. We may look back at Boise State as that moment. I saw multiple UConn players tweet their thanks to fans being loud. Even those covering Boise State felt it:

Before the season, many looked at the UConn schedule and saw six possible wins. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Bahamas on Christmas Eve or Detroit on a random Friday afternoon, a successful season for UConn means playing in any bowl game this year.

On Friday night, UConn travels to USF and plays a team that just lost by 32 at home to N.C. State. The week prior, USF became the first FBS team in three years to lose a game while being +5 in the turnover margin. It is the definition of a winnable game.

The AAC scheduling gods obliged further by providing Temple at home on Sept. 27 – that’s two eminently winnable games in a row. Of course, UConn could just as easily lose both. That’s thing with hope: it gets you through the day but it doesn’t win the day.

We still don’t know if UConn has what it takes to get to six wins. We don’t know if the young talent can grow up quick enough. We don’t know if the offensive line can figure it out. We don’t know if the defense can keep playing at such a high level.

All we know is that UConn outplayed Boise State for three quarters. That’s a step in the right direction. The hope is they take another step forward Friday night. 

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Week 4 College Football Picks: The Insufferable Conference Debate

When the NCAA Tournament selection committee meets every March to discuss the 68-team bracket, there is one thing they never discuss – conference affiliation.

Instead, the committee members look at the quality of teams played, whether those were conference games or non-conference games. This has become especially important in recent years as unbalanced schedules have made one team's slate in a 14-team conference drastically different from another.

oregon good
Contrast that way of thinking with what we've heard through the first three weeks of the 2014 college football season. It seems like every Saturday is another referendum on a conference. It's threatening to swallow the season though it should be meaningless.

In 2013, the ACC had two elite teams in Florida State and Clemson and a whole bunch of mediocre teams. Florida State cruised through the season at 13-0 beating only two teams that ended in the final Top 25 ranking. It was arguably the easiest slate of any BCS title game participant. Florida State won the National Title because they were the best team in the country. Their conference affiliation meant nothing.

Similarly, the biggest story of 2014 so far has been the complete and total failure of Big Ten teams in the non-conference. Many have speculated that the conference is already eliminated from playoff consideration, which is particularly peculiar considering many of those same people saw Michigan State go toe-to-toe with Oregon in Autzen Stadium for three quarters.

Why should Michigan State be punished for the performance of its conference mates?

This is the first year of the college football playoff and everyone is speculating, made worse by the lack of a true definition about what the committee is going to make their decisions based on. It has had the unfortunate effect of smothering the early season.

We should be learning who is good, who is overrated and who is going to surprise. There is so much to be gleaned from these first few results. You can see the seeds of future success or the harbingers of problems to come. We know so little, yet we act like we know so much.

The result of one game tells us only about the two teams involved. Oklahoma didn't prove Big 12 superiority by dismantling Tennessee; much like Boston College's upset of USC didn't prove the ACC is better than the Pac-12. It only revealed that Oklahoma may be really good and USC may not be.

The simplest explanation is usually the most accurate.

Overall Record: 15-20
Best Bet: 1-2
Upset Special: 2-1

The less said about last week the better. I missed out on two covers (Tennessee & UConn) due to late turnovers returned for touchdowns. Absolutely brutal beats.

Auburn (-8.5) over KANSAS STATE
Auburn has covered 13 games in a row against the spread, which is the most ridiculous streak I can ever remember. Think about it: the entire existence of Las Vegas is based on preventing that. Who beats the house 13 times in a row? It's absurd to the point of comedy.

gus malzahn sweater
That's not why I'm picking Auburn. I'm picking Auburn because I saw Kansas State give up 28 first-half points to Iowa State. I know they righted the ship and pulled out the victory, but Iowa State is no Auburn. The Manhattan crowd is going to be live and amped up for an excellent Thursday night showdown, away from the cluttered Saturday night slate, but I just don't see them slowing down the Auburn offense. I don't see anyone doing that.

And no, Auburn putting up 50 on Kansas State will not prove SEC superiority, even if that will be the major takeaway we hear about on Friday.

Uconn (+2) over SOUTH FLORIDA
Just kidding. I don’t care how much I’m enthused by UConn’s first few games; you should not place money on this game. Or even make a pick for fun. It’s just not worth it.

VIRGINIA TECH (-8) over Georgia Tech
Ah, the beauty of college football in September – we know absolutely nothing. Georgia Tech went up 35-10 on Georgia Southern and looked like a triple option machine straight from Paul Johnson’s fantasies. Then they blew the lead, only to win in the final minute.

Virginia Tech looked like a potential playoff contender in smothering Ohio State, only to be badly exposed by an East Carolina team that should have won by multiple scores.

So why am I going with Virginia Tech? Because their weakness lies in the secondary and that won’t be a problem in this one.

PITTSBURGH (-6.5) over Iowa
I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of the Iowa-Iowa State game last week as someone with no rooting interest. I could see the car crash coming. The Kirk Ferentz timeout at the end was just the icing – pun intended – on the cake. What a disaster.

An Iowa defensive player was on BTN Live this week and he was asked by Glen Mason, “What’s wrong with the running game?” After an audible sigh, he said, “I don’t know, man.”

Iowa is demoralized. Pitt may be decent. This could get ugly.

Maryland (+1) over SYRACUSE
I hate this pick and this line but I am going to ride Maryland one last time before giving up on them for good. Look, I said in the preseason they could be the new Texas A&M, so I am giving them one last chance. The defense was beyond atrocious last week against West Virginia but they still should have won the game and showed a ton of heart coming back from 28-6 to down.

As for Syracuse, I haven't forgotten that they needed overtime to beat FCS Villanova in week one. Yeah, sure, they beat up Central Michigan last week but Maryland is a huge step up in class for them. My gut tells me Maryland benefits from the tough game a week ago and is far more prepared for this game than the Orange.

Also, it's really weird to watch Maryland (Big Ten) play West Virginia (Big 12) and Syracuse (ACC) in back-to-back weeks. All three are now in the wrong conference.

EAST CAROLINA (-2.5) over North Carolina
In the preseason, I picked North Carolina to win the ACC. Then I watched in horror two weeks ago when San Diego State ran all over them and, if not due to one bad play late, would have defeated UNC. It is remarkable that UNC is actually ranked this week in the meaningless coaches poll. More proof that none of those voters watch the games.

ecu new years day
As for East Carolina, this caps their non-conference gauntlet and everything is there for the taking. They will return home to what should be an absolutely electric crowd. The AAC title appears to be a two-team race between them and Cincinnati. The Group of Five berth in a New Year's Day bowl should go to the AAC champion, unless Boise State beats BYU. Many projections already have ECU penciled into the Peach Bowl.

What I'm trying to say is that this is a really, really, really big game for East Carolina. They are about to be this year's UCF, using a step-up in conference as a springboard to a program-changing season. For North Carolina, this is just a game. They will play many more important ones in the next two months.

Virginia (+14) over BYU
I don't have a good football reason for this pick. Virginia looked terrible at times at home against Louisville, but was gifted great field possession and turnovers for three straight hours. BYU looked incredible at times at home against Houston, but somehow sputtered away a huge lead to make it a relatively close game. Everything points to BYU winning by four touchdowns.

But I can't leave Virginia. They are 2-0 against the spread as underdogs, including the outright win last week. I picked them both times. It would be rude to jump off now, right?

ALABAMA (-14.5) over Florida *Best Bet*
Is the line for real? The crazy thing is that the line opened at -17 and has been bet down to what you see here. What is going on? Did I miss something where 15 Alabama players got suspended? Did Tim Tebow return to Florida? I am so thoroughly confused.

Usually, this would be cause for concern as I run away screaming for a sucker line. But I rolled with Nebraska in a similar spot and celebrated the cover before the first quarter was over. So we're doubling down on absurd lines.

I watched much of the Florida/Kentucky game and Kentucky was the superior team. It took a tremendous amount of luck for Florida to even get that game to overtime, much less win it. Now they're going to stay within two touchdowns of an Alabama team that is getting grief on a daily basis despite dominating opponents?

One last reason: Alabama's opening weekend win against West Virginia looks better than it did then. I don't know how good West Virginia ends up but they are not the 4-8 team they were a year ago.

MICHIGAN (-5.5) over Utah
This is the type of game Michigan wins every year by 21 points that gets the natives all excited about the season and how they’ve turned the corner finally. It’s very possible Michigan could get to 5-1 by the time Penn State comes to town in mid-October – consider this a warning, Michigan fans.

LSU (-10) over Mississippi State
You should only pick an underdog if you can see them winning the game outright, regardless of the spread. Mississippi State has beaten LSU once (!!) since 1991 and has not done so in the 21st Century. I’m not betting against history. In fact, Mississippi State has only lost by single digits once since 2000.

Clemson (+20) over FLORIDA STATE *Upset Special*
(Please note: This was written before Winston's first-half suspension was announced. Kudos to Jimbo Fisher for doing so. Regardless of changes to the spread, as in Vegas, I got in at +20.)

Do I see Clemson winning this game Saturday night? Yes, yes I do. I’ll give you five reasons

fsu vs clemson
1) Clemson is mad. They are mad about the second-half performance against Georgia. They are mad about getting embarrassed by Florida State last year. They are mad that Jameis Winston declared Death Valley was “our house” via tweet during baseball season. Anger is awesome motivation.

2) Clemson can score points. The Florida State defense is a major concern based on the first game against Oklahoma State. That defense smothered Clemson from the opening kickoff last year. Clemson will score points.

3) Clemson’s performance against Georgia is better than you think. Do you think Dabo Swinney wishes Mike Bobo had forgotten about Todd Gurley in week one? They went toe-to-toe against a Top 10 team in their house for three quarters. Yes, they wore down but Florida State lacks the horses to do the same.

4) I believe in Dabo Swinney. I didn’t always but he won me over last year. The way his program came back from a potentially crippling Orange Bowl embarrassment in 2011 to win the game last year has me in his corner. I am also a big fan of him pumping Jameis Winston’s tires all week.

5) “Nobody believes in us!” If you don’t think Dabo says those exact words Saturday night, you’re crazy.

NEBRASKA (-7) over Miami
I think Nebraska is better than people think. I think Miami is as average as people think. The Big Ten needs to win at least one primetime game this year, right? 

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ESPN First Take is Not That Bad, Which is the Problem

ESPN First Take with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith is the worst show in the history of sports television. Right?

For years, the show has been targeted by sports media watchers – from the established Sports Illustrated to the outsider Deadspin to the blog Awful Announcing – as the epitome of everything that is wrong with sports coverage in the social media era.

espn first take
For years, I never watched the show. It airs on weekday mornings when I’m at work. When I occasionally work from home, I will keep CNN or ESPN on as background or play music. I can’t say that I ever watched the show.

It has existed as a curiosity for me. The show delivers outstanding ratings for a 10 am weekday timeslot on ESPN2. It averages roughly 400,000 viewers, which is just about the same number NBCSN does for its Formula 1 coverage. There are a whole bunch of variables there – the reach of ESPN vs. NBCSN at the top – but it’s worth noting that First Take does ridiculous numbers for its timeslot, especially considering ESPN proper airs a live SportsCenter opposite it.

So on Monday afternoon, as I treated myself to a sushi lunch following a busy morning, I was greeted by a repeat of First Take on the television behind the sushi bar.

“Finally,” I thought. “I’ll be able to see what this is all about.”

Even before I watched one minute I knew I’d write about it – in my head, I was excited to explain in great detail how the fire from the steaming hot sports takes singed my eyebrows off.

Instead, I watched two guys talking about football. I don’t know how else to put it – it was every other mindless debate show that proliferates the cable sports landscape.

In fact, as Smith and Bayless discussed – excuse me, debated – whether Saints are really that bad or the Browns are actually good, it struck me how I could hear this exact same discussion – excuse me, debate – on Pardon the Interruption later in the day and no one would bat an eye.

That’s when it struck me. People like Richard Deitsch and Deadspin don’t hate the show First Take, they hate Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. Maybe they should. Or maybe the hatred is really a thinly-veiled form of jealously.

Both Smith and Bayless have transformed themselves into well-paid stars thanks to endless and shameless self-promotion. Bayless is infamous for trolling, moronic tweets. Smith says loud, obnoxious things while telling people to tune in to First Take for the take on his takes. It’s a remarkable circle of nonsense that attracts attention.

Look, I’m not saying you should watch First Take – there are dozens of other shows that serve the same mindless purpose. They just lack the self-promoters at the helm.

It was remarkable that at the same time I was trying to figure out why First Take receives such venom, I saw a tweet to an interview with Charissa Thompson. I say interview but it was more a love letter to Thompson in the guise of journalism. The article features praise such as, “She’s refreshingly self-aware about the media business and her role in it.”

This isn’t to disparage Thompson but her main role on Fox Sports 1 is to moderate yet another mindless debate among former athletes on Fox Sports Live.  It is a panel that has produced cringe-worthy viral moments that rank up there with anything First Take has produced, yet Thompson’s willingness to share her honest thoughts gives her a free pass.

It’s not like Bayless and Smith are unique in their willingness to troll people into submission. Gregg Doyel at CBS Sports and Clay Travis at Fox Sports are two other prominent examples of morons who have risen to “stardom” in terms of page views and Twitter followers by trolling fans on a daily basis. Yet their trolling skills don’t match those of Smith and Bayless, so they don’t get the same amount of vitriol.

In fact, the First Take disgust has risen to such levels that ESPN executives have been called in to defend the show and refute absurd claims that the show is ruining the entire cable empire’s brand. I haven’t met a single person who passed on watching Monday Night Football or College Gameday because Skip Bayless said something stupid.

In the end, I was disappointed.

I was disappointed that First Take was a horrid disaster.

I was disappointed that so many have wasted so much time lobbying shots at First Take, giving them the precise publicity they want.

I was disappointed that my idea for a blog post ended up like this.

I was disappointed that trolling remains so easy to pull off if one is so inclined.

I was disappointed that this is the sports media – First Take and the First Take haters. We can all do better. We should all do better. 

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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Senseless End of the Noon College Football Game

At 8 p.m. Saturday night, every broadcast network was showing college football. NBC had Notre Dame/Purdue, Fox had UCLA/Texas, ABC had Tennessee/Oklahoma and, thanks to a weather delay, CBS had Georgia/South Carolina.

At noon, the only game on broadcast was Ohio State beating Kent State 66-0.

A week prior, the four best games of the day – Notre Dame/Michigan, Michigan State/Oregon, Virginia Tech/Ohio State and BYU/Texas – all kicked off between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

A week prior, the only game on broadcast at noon was Penn State beating Akron in a snoozefest.

night college football
The proliferation of college football on television should be a good thing for fans. With the exception of the non-existent Pac-12 Network, I have access to quite literally every single college football game being played on Saturday. There are times when I have 13 games on various channels. I should be celebrating and writing 1,000-word sonnets to our glorious television overlords for blessing us with so much football.

Instead, my remote may explode.

At the risk of sounding like a cranky out-of-touch thirty-something, it didn’t always used to be like this. For the duration of the 1990’s, the biggest games of the day almost always kicked off at noon. Those classic Florida State/Miami and Florida State/Florida games were usually ticketed for a noon start on ABC. Even when CBS jumped back into the fray in the mid-1990’s with the Big East and SEC, they tended to put the bigger game at noon – think back to the classic Miami/Florida State game from 2000 and how it ended by mid-afternoon.

This trend continued up until 2005 – that year, ABC only aired four games in primetime and CBS only aired two. Then in 2006, ABC unleashed its Saturday Night Football franchise at the exact perfect time, as DVRs and time-shifted viewing started to put an overwhelming amount of emphasis on live sports.

Suddenly, ABC was actually drawing viewers on the death slot that was Saturday nights and it was only a matter of time before the party was joined. In recent years, Notre Dame has played two night games a year – up from zero. Fox has jumped in a weekly primetime game. And these are just the broadcast channels.

The struggle in college football has come down to exposure versus money. For years, the Big Ten dominated the noon time slot. With the advent of the Big Ten Network, the number of noon Big Ten games on ESPN and ESPN2 dwindled. The new network also included more primetime games for the conference – a rarity for the tradition-beholden Big Ten.

In that span, the noon slots were taken over by the improving SEC and the conference clearly benefited from the exposure and lack of competition. However, their desire for money was equal to that of the Big Ten’s and this year, the SEC Network has entered the fray.

Let’s not forget to mention the arrival of Fox Sports 1, the growing CBS Sports Network and the overwhelming influence of ESPN’s stable of channels – even ESPNews is now showing games all day on Saturdays.

All of these networks, like their broadcast counterparts, have been unable to resist the pull of moving their best games to primetime in an effort to woo viewers and reel in advertisers. These past two weeks give us a great indication how this migration to primetime is hurting the sport at large while helping the bottom line.

On Sept. 6, BYU/Texas was a primetime game on Fox Sports 1. While this was probably good for Texas due to the result, it left the game to be played in relative anonymity. Why wasn’t this game played in the afternoon? If it had been played at noon in lieu of Iowa State/Kansas State, it would have been watched by dramatically more people.

rutgers night game
This past week, the Big Ten Network wanted to showcase the first foray of Rutgers into conference play. If had been played at noon, it would have drawn attention and social media chatter. Instead, it was played in the shadow of at least five other better games and reduced to a mere two plays of highlights on College Football Final.

UConn played Boise State at noon. It was not a game that anyone besides diehard UConn fans or Boise State fans should have been watching. Alas, without competition, the game garnered tweets and attention from national college football writers and fans starving for something – anything – to watch in the noon time slot.

The ratings bear out that this game of scheduling chicken is cannibalizing everyone. While the total audiences across the major stations are up, the ratings for specific games are down across the board.

I never thought I would ever write these words but, well, here goes: There is entirely too much college football on Saturday nights now.

Is it any surprise that the only package to increase in ratings has been the SEC game on CBS, which has remained in the afternoon and, in most weeks, towers over the competition? In week 2, the most-watched game was USC/Stanford because it kicked off at 3:30 p.m., the traditional CBS slot which was vacated for the week due to the U.S. Open.

I believe ESPN – the major scheduling force in college football – has noticed this. Just this morning, they announced Tennessee at Georgia would kick off at noon on Sept. 27. It’s not the mind-blowing type of matchups that slot has given us in past years but it’s better than Ohio State/Kent State.

Will other networks and leagues follow suit? I doubt it. And that’s too bad. Won’t someone please think of the remotes??

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