Over the past few years when Fox had the big bowls, I’d get a call or five every late September from various higher-ups making sure that CFN (who provides content for FoxSports.com) didn’t go over the top when commenting on the BCS. To be fair and thankful, no one ever told me or anyone else at CFN what we could and couldn’t write or tried to limit what we could say on TV and radio appearances. That was never a problem (outside of not commenting on some of the announcer teams) since we’ve made it a point to not get dragged down in all the “BCS Sucks” rhetoric (again, since the ranting goes nowhere), and there was never any discussion of what we could and couldn’t write and say when it came to the BCS chase and how the rankings were shaping up. Fire on the process and the system … not really. Go nuts on what was happening within the system … fine. It’s extremely doubtful that the ESPNers will get the same leeway and freedom.
ESPN is unabashedly about making money through entertainment, and that’s fine. However, the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader is to hard-hitting sports commentary what Tiger Woods is to Buddhism. Each throws out the idea of doing something noble in an attempt to distract from what they’d really rather be doing.
ESPN sticks the controversial discussions and the most in-depth pieces on at times when most stations are running test patterns and informercials. Why ruffle feathers when Keyshawn Johnson can do yet another enabling “interview” with a guy who doesn’t know that 85 in Spanish is ochenta y cinco? That’s no problem for 95% of the programming hours, but it’s a huge issue when it’s time to put on the big boy pants and examine the controversial items like steroids and HGH (a topic that ESPN has been embarrassingly inept at covering and shameful in its lack of integrity when it comes to delving into the question marks surrounding stars like Barry Bonds, Usain Bolt, Lance Armstrong, Albert Pujols, Michael Phelps, and any other athlete whose performances appear to be way too good to be true), or Ben Roethlisberger’s alleged transgressions (at least the first time around). And it’s also a problem when the job of the analysts is to be a major influence peddler for a sport that relies on the judges.
No, college football’s national champion isn’t really decided on the field. Boise State, Cincinnati, TCU, and 114 other teams had no chance whatsoever of playing for the title in 2009 if Texas and the Florida/Alabama winner went undefeated. None. It wouldn’t have mattered if the Bearcats beat everyone on the slate by 40 points. As long as the SEC champion and Texas were unbeaten, they were going to play for the national championship because the pollsters weren’t going to budge the top teams out of the top spots as long as they kept winning.
Read the whole thing. Extra kudos to Pete for also noticing an issue related to the preseason polls that we talked about here last year: for most of the poll voters, if a game doesn't get mentioned on ESPN, in their minds it didn't actually happen.