Jon Reed Goes Off On... February 2007
Wednesday, February, 14 2007
There are no upsets in college basketball (but ESPN's coverage is upsetting)
On the good side, ESPN's family of networks covers a lot of college ballgames. On the downside, any botched-up decisions they make on how to cover college hoops has far-reaching consequences. And leave it to ESPN to fall down in their own heavy-handed hype. One bone to pick: ESPNews, as well as Sportscenter, are eager to breathlessly feature any big college "UPSETS." Newsflash guys: there *are* no upsets in college basketball anymore. The parity that helped George Mason get to the Final Four has made college ball more of a level playing field, for better and for worse. Add that to the mass exudus of blue chip talent to the NBA, and you have a definite "any given Sunday" vibe to any college basketball matchup. So when ESPNews highlights, as they did the other night, a "major upset," such as "West Virginia upsets UCLA," the eyes glaze over. Yes, if West Virginia had beat UCLA in a seven game series, it would have been a major upset. But Lew Alcindor isn't playing for UCLA these days. On any given night, a team can get it up and put a hurt on another. Yes, it's ESPN's job to make college basketball exciting. But there seems to be a (mistaken) belief that the underlying games aren't exciting enough without some kind of blast from the artificial hype machine. Nowhere is that more evident than the ESPN "Gameday" coverage, where the guys take their studio on the road and let a bunch of blowhard fans as close to the set as possible. When did it become cool to be a total camera-grubbing psycho for your team? That kind of fandom isn't making the world a better place. These are the guys that ten years from now will kick the crap out of some poor chap who wears "opposing colors" to an NFL game. You can love sports without being a collegiate homer asshole screaming at ESPN commentators whenever they criticize your team. But whether that manic "I love my team and hate yours" mentality should be encouraged by a national network is an open question. But the real problem is ESPN, and their unnecessarily frenetic coverage. College basketball is a great, billion dollar product - ESPN's coverage indicates a level of insecurity about that product that makes no sense. All ESPN has to do is to step back and let the games speak for themselves. But then I guess some talking heads would be out of a job.