Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Grading ESPN's MegaCast

ESPN got bold Monday night with their coverage of the BCS Championship Game. They went all out. They truly went balls to the wall. And some of their efforts worked, some did not.

The Title Talk on ESPN 2 was atrocious. Imagine watching people watch something. And not like a reaction YouTube video, watching people react to Two Girls and a Cup. This was watching 2-4 astute college football fans watching a game with 3-4 moronic people. "Is the guy who snaps the ball called the snapper?" That was a direct quote from ESPN 2's Title Talk.

Jemele Hill was also there. Remember she was the one who compared rooting for the Boston Celtics to rooting for the Nazis in World War II. She's not too smart, and is habitually prone to hyperbole, which means she's one of ESPN's favorite personalities. Why be smart and appreciated when you can be moronic and controversial? Which one results in more internet hits? That's all that matters for ESPN.

I will grade ESPN's Title Talk program with a D-. It's not a complete fail because it did what it tried to do, and have an inane conversation of ignorance. And I think NESN should learn from it and make a ThinkPink simulcast for Red Sox and Bruins playoff games in the future. The Pink Hats would love it. The rest of the real sports fans will watch the actual game.

The BCS Film Room merits an A-. It was great. Truly great. There were some small problems, like keeping pace with the live feed. However, the coaches and experts were interesting, informative, and honest. As a BC fan I gained new appreciation for Steve Addazio. And it was also cool to listen to thoughts from Texas A&aM's Kevin Sumlin, and Pitt's Paul Chryst.

The only critiques I have for the Film Room coverage is that Matt Millen monopolized conversation. Just let other people talk, man. There was so much college football wisdom and knowledge in that room among 6 people, but Millen spoke more than a third of the words. And the show was somewhat disjointed. Which is typical for the first run of shows. But by and large it was great.

The Sounds of the BCS coverage on ESPN Classic was what it was. The TV broadcast without TV broadcasters. I'll give that a B.

The BCS Command Center on ESPN Goal Line gets an Incomplete because I don't get that channel.

All the features on ESPN3 get a B- because they delivered what they promised and nothing more. And for some reason Comcast Xfinity and my computer and phone have a major disagreement. I'll call it a philosophical misunderstanding. Watching ESPN3 feeds was fun while they lasted.

I thought it worked on some levels. Title Talk wasn't for me. Not at all, not one bit. But the BCS Film Room was fan-fucking-tastic. I mean it was awesome to behold how smart football coaches are, how they can read a play with just a few frames of footage, how they viewed the game in such an holistic way. They were schooling, non-stop.

The only drawback was that Matt Millen seemed to think his contract gave him the rights to 40% of the words, even though three respected college football coaches were in the room, along with two other college football analysts. Maybe in 2015 Matt Millen will get his own channel on MegaCast, and he can dominate his own conversations.

I'd love to see stuff like the Film Room for future big games, maybe for the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals, and so on.

R.I.P. BCS, Anyone Who Misses You Is Either a Fool, or Someone You Made Rich

The last BCS Championship game was a classic. But let's not give credit for the quality of the game to the system. Give credit to the players on Florida State and Auburn who busted their asses to play a great game. Great games happen with and without the BCS. Auburn/Alabama was a great game and the BCS had no control over that. It was an SEC game.

The BCS system defiled college football for 16 years. It wasn't just imperfect, it was intentionally flawed. It defied logic, common sense, and fair play. And those are three things that you're supposed to be taught when you attend college.

The BCS believed that out of the 100+ programs in Division I-A football, a formula could be created that would determine the top 2. And those 2 teams would play each other for the national title. The BCS actually believed it could devise a system to make this a reality.

That formula worked exactly one time, when Vince Young and Texas beat USC in early 2005. Every other year there were flaws, and arguments against legitimacy. Undefeated teams sometimes didn't make it to the national title game. Oklahoma once made it despite not winning their own conference. Even this year, Auburn's claim seemed just as good as other 1-loss teams.

Every other college sport uses a playoff system. And every other level of college football uses a playoff system. What prevented the top level of college football from using that system was the fact that money went to good old boys (and their friends) who ran bowl games, and also guaranteed money went to conferences that couldn't always guarantee the best teams (BigTen and Pac-12).

The BCS proliferated for so long because it worked for a select few who undeservedly wielded power over all of college football. And they also collected massive sums of money simply because their predecessors had rented a stadium decades ago.

The BCS wasn't just an imperfect system. Its flaws were an intentional byproduct of its design. It was designed to funnel money and TV contracts to a handful of bowl games, and the conference friends of those games. And the prestige of those games was based on who was friends with who. One hand washes the other.

And now that system is no more. It's been replaced by another system that rewards groups of absurdly wealthy men who get together and rent a stadium in early January. And those men receive millions and billions of dollars for their not-so-risky investment in a sure thing. The system is still just as corrupt and money-driven for those involved, but at least it's more exciting for the fans. At least it's a better system for determining the best team in college football.

If people are going to make money in sketchy ways, they might as well put an entertaining product on the field for all of us to enjoy. The Playoff will be more entertaining than just a one-game BCS Championship.

I'd say good riddance to a bad system, but that bad system lives on and influences the new system.