Can’t Hate

by: Chris Meinecke

Chris Meinecke

Chris Meinecke

Programming in televised sports has forever been molded into specialized channels. This may not be much of a realization to some or most of you, but it’s much easier to understand if you rip the blankets off of what some networks are trying to pull. When I say some networks I mean ESPN.

There is nothing new in me voicing that if you take sports at face value there no reason to shuck them aside. That doesn’t mean that you’ll want to or even should watch all of it. My face value of the WNBA is extremely low. I don’t see it (and most others don’t as well) as a highly entertaining product. There is a niche that the league brings, that is all well and good, but for most it just simply isn’t chair gripping action on any level. The NBA however is a different animal. Sure the “Association” has morphed significantly in the last fifteen to twenty years. You can see it if you look back to some of the shorter short wearing days of the mid 90’s. Now every team has four or five uniforms that get more rack space over anything else for merchandising purposes. If you take the NBA as the proverbial doinkball that it is – running travels and low percentage shooting – and realize that some of the soul jarring competitive nature of the game during the Jordan era is long gone, THEN you can take it at face value and enjoy it.

Why is this explanation important or even necessary? Take a look around your digital dial while I explain.

Many specialty channels have sprouted in the modern viewing age of sports. The NFL Network, where together THEY make football, and yes that’s what their egocentric thought is, was established in 2003. NHL Network 2007, MLB Network 2009, NBA TV all the way back to 1999. Even the FOX Soccer Channel which went away officially in 2013 has what is now an ultra premium channel in FOX Soccer Plus (strike while the iron is hot I guess). Channels like FOX Sports 1 & 2, CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network all got into the game over the last several years. Hell, FOX Sports 1 went so far as to compare themselves to ESPN on many levels without actually saying it out loud or in a press release. What’s important is that all of these channels serve enough of an audience that it keeps them on the air, in line with competition, and relevant to the overall media tidal wave that includes radio, online publications, and even us here at the BLFC blog and FCSRadio.

Next on the platter is the mother-ship. Since their inception in 1979 ESPN has evolved over and again. How can you not in 35+ years of broadcasting. What has come of their existence is the constant tug job over sports glistening super-stars like Lebron James and Tiger Woods. I’m not speaking from opinion, it’s a fact, all I ask is that you yourself not be blind to it. The proof is in the programming…

… the website programming.

Right Column on espn.com

That’s right. If you haven’t stumbled across any broadcast of SportsCenter from Bristol to Los Angeles, all you have to do is jump over to espn.go.com. Of the eleven stories that are listed in the right column, seven of them regard something to do with the NBA. 

LebronCenter

Can one fault ESPN for what they’re doing? Not at all. The NBA has a huge market of fans. NBA TV does its damnedest to cover the league. The Hardwood Classics are welcomed for someone nostalgic, but it’s not all-encompassing. TNT plays an important role having the broadcast privilege of double-headers on Thursday nights and digging in a foothold for almost three decades. Even with the TNT product, it’s still sub-par when it comes to the NBA and its coverage. They’re too interested in airing badly scripted shows like Rizzoli & Isles and poorly acted reruns of Bones to be too concerned about improving their NBA product, one that even Charles Barkley says “sucks” on the Tonight Show [Watch here at the 30:21 mark IF you can sit through a couple of commercials you can’t skip and see how whiny Chuck is, kind of like you whining about not being able to skip commercials]. 

Don’t hate on ESPN for being NBA-centric. If star polishing isn’t your thing, I totally get that, it isn’t mine either. In fact ESPN has helped me resent Lebron and Tiger thanks to their over indulged coverage. That’s not fair to them, they didn’t exactly ask for that from that monolith of a company. Don’t hate on ESPN either for the good things they do still do. Their Fantasy Football software is set up and run extremely well in my opinion, Outside the Lines still does great investigative reporting, SportsCenter still has a small romantic space in my heart, and having the ability to  look at a major sports event calendar well into the future is appreciated in case I’d like to look at the NBA, NHL, and NCAA schedules for the month of March all in one place on the Sports Calendar section of the ESPN Playbook page.

Take ESPN at face value. It’s the NBA Network. For as much as they’d love to tell you that they’re well versed in the world of sports and being The Worldwide Leader in Sports, that simply is no longer true. While I can’t earmark a birth date for this like I did earlier in the article, welcome, NBA Network, you’ve been long-awaited at 1301 on my digital dial (even though I still won’t turn you on much).

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Thursday Night Football: Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts

Die hard NFL fans revel in competition this time of year.  In 2011, this time of year is extra special.  With the college football slate being on hiatus until the big bowls start in early January, we get NFL football not only on Sunday and Monday, but Thursday and Saturday as well.  While Thursday football has been going for some weeks now, the Saturday games ensure that we not without pro football for more than 3 days a week.

That being said, some of the Thursday, and most of the Monday games have been stinkers.  The NFL went so far as to say that NBC would televise the night game on Thanksgiving next season, with the NFL Network losing that game.  My guess is that the ratings sucked enough for the change, but not enough to take games away from NFL Network altogether.  Keep all of this in mind as we, as NFL fans, try to focus on another turd of a game this Thursday evening.

Houston @ Indianapolis

T.J. Yates

The Houston Texans have had a revolving door at quarterback due to injury.  Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were both lost for the season.  Many thought that the Texans season was lost, too.  Not so fast.  Enter T.J. Yates.  The North Carolina product helped Houston polish off their first division crown in club history, and put his foot in concrete as someone to be taken seriously as the playoffs start.

 

 

 

The Colts on the other hand… Yikes.  There seems to be some sentiment that Peyton Manning will receive an MVP vote or two given the falterings of the Colts.  That’s a bit insane from my point of view.  Then again, who said most sports writers were sane.  The only thing more funny than the Colts record and moronic writers voting Peyton Manning MVP is the large number of Colts fans, all wearing a different royal blue player jersey, who will show up to watch this game as me and the rest of the funnel cake gang head out for beer and wings tonight.  We just have to laugh when Donald Brown rips off a two yard run and the gaggle erupts from the south side of the bar.  Relax.

Even though the Colts grabbed their first win of the season, and new quarterback Dan Orlovsky is flying high, Indianapolis is still 1-13.  The Colts defense has been swiss cheese all year.  Their offense, unable to be consistent no matter what weapons they have.

The Texans have the #2 ranked rushing offense and it will be difficult for the Colts to stop it.  Houston still has something to play for – a first round bye.  Don’t expect them to take their foot off the gas for a second.  There will be no let up because of the chance at a bye, and the fact that they have been punched in the mouth for so long by Indy, they want to smash a few mouths, too.

Texans 31 – Colts 17

Thursday Night Football: Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Meaningless to some, important to others, the Cleveland Browns travel to Pittsburgh tonight to face the division rival and perennial AFC North powerhouse Steelers.

The Steelers enter tonight tied with Baltimore with a 9-3 record, and would do wonders to boost their numbers against a struggling 4-8 Browns team.  With the Ravens facing a putrid Indianapolis Colts club (0-12), the Steelers will need to focus on beating a team that they should beat and not look past this early week 14 matchup.

We can expect to see a bit of a defensive battle tonight.  The Steelers rank 1st in overall defense, allowing only 273.8 total yards on average per contest.  Cleveland and Pittsburgh rank 1,2 respectively in passing yards allowed, but rushing defensive is where these two teams differ.  Pittsburgh ranks 7th, Cleveland 31st.

Antonio Brown (REUTERS/Jason Cohn)

We have witnessed the Steelers go from a smash-mouth running game type team to more of a passing, modern team.  Ben Roethlisberger is an efficient passer and has some weapons in Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Hines Ward, so it makes sense that they would mold an offense around these players.  It should be interesting to see how Big Ben handles the top passing defense.  This game being at Heinz Field helps the Steelers cause.

Cleveland Browns Quarterback Colt McCoy

The Browns have some young talent, but Colt McCoy is still a couple of years away from really breaking out.  The running back situation hasn’t done them any favors, and last season’s bust-out star, Peyton Hillis, has been predominantly a bust this season.  Madden curse?  Possibly.

Fans should expect a bit of a see-saw game in the beginning with defense clouding all better judgement.  If the Steelers can set up a good ground attack initially, the passing game should open up and start to put Cleveland back on their heels.  Hopefully for McCoy’s sake the Browns aren’t down big most of the game, or his INT numbers will go up.  My guess is he’ll probably throw a couple of picks, but one won’t be his fault.  Steelers keep pace and get a dirty score at the end to make it an over-reach for the Browns.

Steelers 31 – Browns 17