Another Tuesday, so that means it’s time for another Rich’s Rants. Several topics to cover this week. A word of warning, one topic will be rather in-depth so be prepared.
The end of the NFL season is upon us and that means it’s time for the Super Bowl. Wait, not quite yet! First, we have to suffer through the NFL Pro Bowl. You know the Pro Bowl don’t you? It’s the worst All-Star game in any of the major sports and judging by the television ratings each year no one cares, including the players (at least the ones that bother to show up). There is absolutely no reason to actually have this game. It’s not a real game after all because most of the players haven’t played in weeks, some players are missing (injury, they’ll be playing in the Super Bowl the following week or they just don’t want to), and it normally ends up just being an offensive game because which defender will bother to actually try to make a real hit/tackle and risk injury for no good reason (at least the MLB All-Star game has homefield advantage on the line!). All the Pro Bowl is, is a boondoggle that allows the players, coaches and NFL executives a chance to expense a trip to Hawaii. The NFL tried last year to have the Pro Bowl in the same city as the Super Bowl but they found out the only reason the majority of the people go to the Pro Bowl was because it was in Hawaii (thus the move back there this year). All All-Star games need to be dissolved starting with the NFL Pro Bowl. To fulfill the players’ All-Star bonuses, all you have to do is do what the NFL does with the All-Pro team; simply make an announcement stating which players are Pro Bowl players; the NFL could even have a small ceremony during halftime of the Super Bowl presenting each player with their Pro Bowl bonus checks or something. Also, the money the NFL would save by doing this could then be rolled into getting all the NFL officials eye tests/LASIK surgery so they can get calls right for a change and maybe a set of Hooked on Phonics books so they actually understand the rules of the game. All-Star games were basically designed to let fans all over the country see players they normally wouldn’t see during the regular season but due to TV deals today where a fan can see every single game of every single team, it is pointless now. Come on NFL, end the farce that is the Pro Bowl!
Brian Cashman had a bad week last week. First, it was revealed that the Rafael Soriano signing the Yankees made the week before basically happened because the Steinbrenners overruled Cashman (who didn’t want to lose a draft pick). Then, it was revealed that Cashman was in talks with Carl Pavano. Yes, the same Carl Pavano that signed arguably the worst free agent deal in baseball history with the Yankees several years ago. So, this made me wonder; what the hell was Cashman thinking and is he “losing” it? He was willing to pass on Soriano and pass on creating possibly the best 8/9th inning combo the game’s ever seen over a draft pick? Draft picks in baseball are almost worthless unless you have the top one or two picks. The player selected is years away from actually contributing to your major league club; that is if the player can remain in your minor league system without getting traded away. The draft is such a crapshoot that as a Yankee fan, I would rather they give up one draft pick to improve the “bridge to Mariano” and possibly finally find Mariano’s replacement. Also, what exactly about Pavano was Cashman thinking showed he would be worthy of spending money on? Yes, Pavano had success in Minnesota the last couple of seasons but Vazquez had success in Atlanta before being brought back to the Yankees and showing that he was the same Vazquez they got rid of years ago. Something’s going on with Cashman the last couple of seasons that didn’t happen in the 1990s; he’s missing out on free agents (granted, he did everything he could to get Lee), he’s making questionable decisions when it comes to trading away younger players (keeping Joba, Hughes, Nova etc and thus passing on Johan Santana, Cliff Lee etc). Is the time of “Cashman the Genius” we saw from 1996-2000 over or was this offseason just a blip? I’m not sure.
Okay, now it’s time for the in-depth topic I mentioned in the introduction. Last week, it was announced that the University of Texas and ESPN agreed to a 20 year, 300 million deal. The deal will be a channel run by ESPN which will show all Longhorns all the time (and will be available anywhere in the country for a cost). Matt Strobl of the Sports Nickel thinks it’s a wacky idea and I agree. Also, Michael Rosenberg of SI Mobile believes it may actually be illegal which we’ll just have to wait and see if it is. I do believe this gives Texas a huge edge in recruiting (which school will a recruit pick – the one that fights to get a game a week on the Big 10 network or the school that has it’s own channel on the ESPN family of network showing everything they do 24 hours a day?) It should be noted that other schools are now looking into similar deals with other networks or already have one in place (NBC and Notre Dame and Oklahoma is in talks with Fox for example). The main problem I have with this is how it will affect ESPN itself. ESPN is already accused of bias in its reporting when it deals with the SEC (due to a deal they have with that conference), with how it broadcasts/discusses nothing but Yankees/Red Sox and how it handles UCONN (due to ESPN headquarters being in Bristol, CT) not to mention how ESPN basically sided with their analyst Craig James when his son and the former coach of Texas Tech Mike Leach had issues (ESPN is being sued by Leach for libel/slander due to their “reporting” of the issue). How can ESPN possibly be true “sports reporters” when an issue with Texas comes up? ESPN will be counting on TEXSPN or ESPNT or whatever they plan on calling it to be bringing in the ratings and money, so how fair will their coverage be if Texas is under investigation for anything or if their football team is playing badly? As it is now, ESPN’s mantra is just how great the SEC is, now will it be “the SEC is awesome, and oh, yeah so is Texas and be sure to check them out on TEXSPN – call your local cable provider to get it!”. How many commercials for this channel will we suffer through during an episode of Sportscenter or Monday Night Football? I have no problem with conferences having their own channel or teams like the Yankees using their own money to create their own network, but I do a have a problem with the “worldwide leader in sports” doing this. They are able to offer their vast resources to pick and choose which teams/schools they support and by doing so will influence what happens in that sport/school whether its giving the school an unfair advantage in recruiting or overcoverage of a team (and we all know ESPN is great at overcovering anything). I just believe this is a very slippery slope for all involved – will it lead to teams bolting conferences so they can get their own TV deals a la Notre Dame and will it cause the quality/integrity of sports journalism at ESPN to drop (you may not think it can’t get any lower, but it definitely could)? Only time will tell, but I don’t think it will be good.
Oh, and before I hear from all you Longhorn fans saying “it’s great” or “it won’t affect recruiting because any recruit that is coming to Texas would have come to Texas anyways without the TV channel”, ask yourself this question and answer honestly - if ESPN had this deal with Oklahoma instead of Texas, what would you be saying? For other people who are okay with this deal, simply remove Texas from the equation and substitute with your favorite team’s arch rival. I can guarantee you wouldn’t like the deal, especially when people in Texas could get the channel and a recruit in Texas could be watching 24 hours of “come to OU, here’s what we can offer you” type programming.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? You can send questions or comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, you can also leave a comment below, on my Facebook Page or on Twitter. Remember, any email or comment you make, may just make it into Rich’s Replies each Friday! Also, come back each Tuesday for another edition of Rich’s Rants!