Highlighters & Headsets: Critiquing College GamedayPosted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2010
Highlighters and Headsets is an occasional look at the coverage of college basketball – from television to print (they still make paper?), blogs to bracket busters, and Gus Johnson to Gameday – written by RTC contributor Steve Moore. He welcomes your comments, column ideas and Dickie (V) jokes at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @smoore1117.
Taking a Look at College Gameday
ESPN has yet to start this season’s edition of Gameday for basketball, but for me, it seems interesting to discuss just how uninteresting the hoops edition has turned out to be. Each Saturday in the fall, I make it a point to watch some or all of the football version of Gameday. Why? It’s not any sort of college football obsession – heck, my alma mater cut its football program 13 years ago, and the closest I come to rooting interest is hating on Penn State.
It’s not the insightful “analysis” of Lee Corso or Kirk Herbstreit, and it’s not even to look at Erin Andrews (although that’s not a bad way to start your weekend). Sure, there’s the occasional funny feature, or heartfelt story about a player or program you never knew existed. But that’s not really it, either. To be honest, the main reason I watch is because I like to feel like I’m a part of the “event” that is a college football Saturday. The signs, the cheerleaders, the massive sea of fans behind the stage. Just the feel of it all makes me, at least for one fleeting instant, wish I had a big-time program to root for. Heck, I’d even take a 1-AA team (and no, NCAA, I’m not calling it FCS – so take that).
My point is that college football Saturdays are an event, whether you’re in Tuscaloosa or Towson. College basketball doesn’t have that “big day” of action, and there’s nothing the sport can do about that. Yet one of the main reasons we all love college basketball is the atmosphere that surrounds a big game, inside and outside of the gym. And there is plenty ESPN could do to improve on that aspect.
The show feels staged from beginning to end: And a lot of that has to do with ESPN’s seeming insistence that Gameday originate from the site of that day’s big primetime game. That means the show airs at 11 a.m., but the game isn’t for nine hours. Even the football version has fallen victim to that night-game issue this year. But what the football edition isn’t afraid to do is visit a site where ESPN doesn’t have rights to the game. They visited Utah for Utah-TCU, and have made plenty of stops in the SEC when the big game was on CBS. Like football fans, basketball fans will watch the game they want to watch. They won’t just watch the one Rece Davis told them to watch. We’re smarter than that, ESPN. Give us some more credit.
Think outside the box: Football gameday has made the occasional quirky trip – like Amherst vs. Williams a few years back. And in the basketball world, there is absolutely no reason to go to Durham, Lexington, or Bloomington every other week. You have three times as many Division I programs to choose from, and a lot more history when it comes to gyms and arenas. When the show travels to Duke or Illinois, the live broadcast is still a sideshow to the game. But imagine the vibe on campus if the show went to Penn, Northern Illinois, Valparaiso, or Utah State? College hoops junkies like me (and most of you, I assume) love the quirky nature of smaller programs and arenas. And honestly, who is watching at 11 a.m. other than college hoops junkies. The ACC, Big Ten and the other big boys get plenty of attention. You saw the way fans at Monmouth came out at 6 a.m. for the hoops marathon, imagine what would happen if the entire nation was watching at 11 a.m. ESPN is the one network that can do what it wants, and make everyone else follow along. So why not lead the way and show us there is more out there than Duke-UNC?
Adjust the sound levels, please? This may seem like a really minor issue, but it’s honestly the one reason I often reach for the remote during hoops Gameday. I know you want atmosphere and noise, and I understand it’s inside instead of outside. But watching an hour of TV with five guys trying to yell into their microphones is enough to drive even Dickie V crazy. There are a lot of smart tech people at ESPN, so there has to be a way to let these guys talk at a normal level and still make it so we can hear.
Mid-major me: This is your one big chance to highlight some of the smaller conferences and teams, so please throw us a bone here. I have no definitive stats to back this up, but I have to think that just as many TV viewers and hoops fans hail from so-called “mid-majors” as the big schools. Those of us who do rarely get to see our team even mentioned on TV, let alone a live game (especially if you don’t live near your alma mater). So would it really be a bad thing to pick a small conference or two, or a few minor rivalry games, and give them more than a passing mention on the ticker. I know Digger doesn’t like to talk about the minnows, but let’s at least acknowledge that they exist.
Speaking of Digger: The biggest knock on most studio shows is the actual on-air talent. And to be honest, I don’t have many complaints about the Gameday crew. Rece Davis may not be as strong as Chris Fowler when it comes to orchestrating contrasting voices, but no one matches Fowler in that department. I’ve made my dislike for Bob Knight clear in the past, so we won’t even go there. But I like Jay Bilas, I like Hubert Davis, and I can tolerate Digger Phelps. One thing I’d like to see is wider use of correspondents around the country. Spend 10 minutes whipping around the nation and set up the day’s action. ESPN has lots of smart people, why not use them a little more?
The show has a ton of potential, but I just feel like ESPN doesn’t throw all of its weight behind it. And if anyone at the Worldwide Leader is reading this, you don’t even have to pay me if you use any of my ideas this year. But I will take a nice RTC mention on the air…
- Got the chance to watch the Boston U.-Kentucky game Tuesday night via ESPN3.com (have I mentioned how much I love ESPN3?), and the first thing that jumped out at me was the professionalism of the announcing team on the “Big Blue Television Network,” Dave Baker and Kyle Macy. Any small-school fan can tell you how insulting it can be to watch their alma mater on a big power’s TV network. The announcers mispronounce your school’s name, belittle the game as nothing more than a walkover, and talk about future games more than the one at hand. Baker and Macy actually did their homework, praised BU’s first-half effort, and admitted when Kentucky players got away with fouls. So, kudos to “Big Blue,” and especially Baker and Macy.
- I foresee a time in the near future where ESPN3 literally makes almost every single game available every night. Nearly any game in America is on TV somewhere, even if it’s local cable access. What does ESPN have to lose by picking up that feed and making it available online? And what does that local network have to lose? In related news…
- I think it will also spell the end of these pay-per-view or subscription services that colleges offer through their own websites or third parties. When ESPN3 has the power to buy up feeds and make them available for free, why will people continue to pay these outrageous subscription or single-view fees? $7.95 to watch one game? Thanks, but no thanks.
- In completely unrelated news, SportsCenter just showed the Tennessee-Middle Tennessee highlights, and highlighted Tyler Summit coming on in garbage time. Dear god, a male should not look that much like his mother…