Posted by: mdegeorge | January 1, 2011

The New Year’s (May)Day: I Blame ESPN

New Year’s Day. It’s a time to celebrate another year successfully survived and contemplate the changes and hope of a new year.

For me, it’s always been a time for college football, a bowl game utopia culminating a season of fandom with 12 hours spent on the couch with as many snacks as I can stomach.

But the natural disorder has been tragically and irrevocably disrupted.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Rose Bowl Hall of fame inducties participate in the 121st Annual Tournament of Roses parade on January 1, 2010 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

It used to be a time for traditional bowl and a very traditional schedule. As a kid that didn’t have to worry about sleeping off hangovers, the day began with a pair of 11 a.m. games. There was the paradigm-defying Cotton Bowl, featuring a Big 12 (usually Texan) team against an SEC power. Both teams were almost always ranked and produced an entertaining game when the conditions allowed. The morning also meant the Outback Bowl, the first of many SEC-Big Ten showdowns on the day.

While warming up for a day of football viewing, the two games gave just enough to watch without being bored and not too much as to be overwhelmed. By the time you were in the swing of things following both games, the early games retreated to the locker rooms for halftime and the 1 p.m. games took center state. Arguably the best non-BCS matchup took place in Orlando in the Citrus (don’t call it Capital One!!!) Bowl. At the same time, the intriguing meeting that varied form year to year between the SEC, ACC, Big 12, and a usually-underqualified Notre Dame squad that happens to escape the doldrums of mediocrity.

It created a wonderfully chaotic couple hours dialing through four separate games, but it was a manageable mayhem.

Now that the hegemonic power that is ESPN has stepped in, everything is on a separate member of the family of networks. Gone is the tiered approach for a mishmash that makes viewers chose one or the other. there’s the noon option of the TicketCity Bowl (a pathetic excuse for a Texas-based game that is crap compared to the Cotton Bowl that has been hijacked by the Jerry Jones EgoDome), if you can find ESPNU. The Outback and Capital One Bowls are not either/or choices thanks to their identical starting times. And the Gator bowl at 2 impinges on the Rose Bowl’s privilege of exclusivity at 4:30.

Nostalgia aside, college football is losing viewership by having these games compete against each other. I’d rather have the games spread out leisurely through the day so I can enjoy them all in turn. Instead, I can’t get involved in either of the games in more than a cursory manner because I’m just seconds away from missing the best part of the next option.

There’s plenty wrong with the bowl system, and this ranks as a relatively  minor example. But it’s another strike in the disillusionment column for this valued fan.

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