Category Archives: Sports

Coaches Hot Seat froth on the Pac-12 Networks

Yeah, I know that college football discussion is not in the wheelhouse of a good percentage of the readership here at the ‘Lancer, but maybe some of it will work out. Here’s a rather frothy rant from the guy at Coaches Hot Seat, who Uses A Lot Of Caps and Exclamation Points! (It’s also a way for me to test a Firefox WP add-in. But I’m going to let you watch Larry Scott get blistered, and that should be worth it. I hope.)

Coaches Hot Seat froth on the Pac-12 Networks

The CHS fellow and I disagree about the meaninglessness of bowl games. I would, however, agree that the proliferation of stuff like the Kraft Fight Hunger With Manufactured Junk Food Bowl, the Beef O’Brady Bunch Bowl, and the Idaho Potato Bowl (they repeat themselves, ahem) has made college football bowl season ridiculous. Most times, all it takes is a .500 record to be assured of a bowl in a major conference, or a winning record in a non-major. It feels like ‘every kid gets a trophy,’ even though it isn’t, quite. Though at the rate we are going, we might end up with enough bowls that everyone makes it. It would only take about 60, and we’re halfway there. Bowl games I think would be fun:

  • The Rotten.com Bowl (play it in East St. Louis)
  • The Experian Credit Wrecker Bowl
  • The Bank of America Nickel-and-Dime Bowl
  • The Onion Bowl (in reality, it would turn out to be a hoax)
  • The Bismarck Bowl (let’s see how well your team really travels: North Dakota in December!)
  • The Twilight Bowl (during Fairbanks, AK’s few hours of dusk that pass for daylight)
  • The Lentil Bowl (played at Pullman)
  • The Begging Bowl (hold it in whichever EU country, that refuses to tax its rich people or rein in spending, is in the worst shape and needs a boost…Greece would be the current frontrunner, though Spain is mounting a credible bid)
  • The Crock O’ Crap Bowl (where else but our nation’s capital?)
  • The Smoke-A-Bowl (alternating between Colorado and Washington; I think that’s fair)
  • The Tidy Bowl (Geneva, Switzerland, since you can basically eat off the streets in Switzerland)
  • The Sanction Bowl (best two teams on bowl probation; held in the yard at a maximum security prison)
  • The Facebook Bowl Sponsored by Everyone

What isn’t funny this year, as the CHS article mentions, is the colossal failure of the highly touted brand spankin’ new Pac-12 Networks. Here was the idea: imitate the Big 10 (which used to have twelve members, now the number keeps shifting, but only ten of them are even remotely big anyway) by starting the conference’s own network, getting nearly every Pac-12 football game on TV and also televising a lot of other sports that don’t get as much exposure. It was a good idea.

What we did not expect was that the Pac-12 would get so greedy. It had a year to reach agreements with the major premium TV providers. In the main, the conference failed at the basics of business: you need to get the sale. My understanding is that the Pac-12 had promised the member schools Big Moola, forgetting two things: that one still has to reach agreement with providers, and that if one fails in this, one’s network is a not-work because your viewers can’t watch the games. In our area, the Pac’s failure to reach agreement with DefectiveTV and Cheater (two of our three primary providers) denied a majority of the local viewership any chance to watch the games. In my case, four Husky games plus one non-Husky rivalry game mattered to me. During that one, I sat down to write a letter, since it wasn’t on my TV. I’d like to share it with you.

November 24, 2012

Mr. Larry Scott

Pac-12 Conference

1350 Treat Blvd., Suite 500

Walnut Creek, CA 94597-8853

Dear Mr. Scott:

Normally right now I would be rooting for one disliked Pac-12 rival to beat a more disliked Pac-12 rival on TV. Unfortunately, the UO/OSU game is on your Pac-12 Networks, which DirecTV doesn’t offer, so I have free time to write you a letter I have spent most of the season formulating.

In 2011, I was able to watch all twelve Washington games on TV. In 2012, I was able to watch eight. Sadly, the other four were on your vaunted Pac-12 Networks, thus unavailable to me. I trust you understand what this means: your network has been a detriment to Pac-12 sports coverage. If that weren’t bad enough, you have sicked our almae matres on us. Pliant minions that they can so often be, they’ve tried to convince us to blame the satellite and cable providers, and to switch to a provider that carries the Pac-12 Networks. I am not an unreasonable man, nor am I new to DirecTV. I know that DirecTV, a perennial corporate spoiled child and bully, manages to fight with some content provider most months, causing loss of coverage. I am not taking DirecTV’s side when I fault you for the situation. I’m pointing to results: we were better off without your networks. Your networks made sports worse.

It didn’t have to be this way. There were other options. You had a year to work out some sort of deal with the likes of DirecTV. If you had to settle for less money than you have evidently promised the schools, you could have negotiated a one-year deal and returned to the table later. You could have offered online viewing through the Pac-12 Networks website for a reasonable subscription fee (or even free). I would have paid. Instead, you co-opted the schools into repeating your talking points, pressuring fans to pressure their TV providers. One problem with that, Mr. Scott: bright minds graduate from Pac-12 schools. Most aren’t fools. We learn critical thinking. We aren’t all so easily manipulated, and the attempt insults our intelligence and education. Who’s going to dump an otherwise functional vendor relationship over such a small percentage of their TV service? That would be dumb business.

I can tell what this stance cost the conference, because I happened to see some Pac-12 Networks coverage while visiting a friend. While I found the overall coverage substandard, the commercials stood out most. Nearly all were yours, which tells me you didn’t sell much airtime. While the ADs may parrot the line, the advertisers aren’t buffaloed. They know that your stance has lessened the audience, making your price higher than your viewing base is worth to them. It was more sad than comical, but it was a bit of both.

Sir, you have failed. You have taken yet another step in the transformation of a great sport into purest moneyball, where fans are just annoyances who had best hush, accept what is thrown to them, and keep their noses out of corporate management. You have made it pointedly clear that the fans’ good does not matter.

Proud of that?

Sincerely,

J. K. Kelley (UW ’86)

I don’t expect a reply.

The Pac-12 Networks, a.k.a. the Not-works

In July 2011, with many college sports programs playing musical conferences and engaging in games of chicken with each other, the recently expanded Pacific-12 Conference (UW, WSU, the Zeroes, OSU, Utah, Colorado, Cal-Berkeley, Stepford, ASU, UA, USC and UCLA) announced plans for a TV network like what the Big 10 (which has more than ten schools) has deployed. Great, we said, we want to see more football and have our conference doing what big-time conferences do. Revenue sharing would help the smaller market schools, etc., etc. Let’s see the show!

The assumption, which we could not know was flawed, was that we would be able to see the show. In the words of the immortal, unbearable Lee Corso:  “Not so fast, my friend.”

Fourteen months later, the 2012 college football season kicks off. The Pac-12 has failed to reach agreement with just about everyone, which is a pretty good sign the conference got very greedy. A number of games are televised on the Pac-12 Not-works, but very few people can watch them on TV. A few clever souls find other ways, naturally, but only the hardest core of fans would do that. Those who do, find out that the Pac-12 Not-works have sold zero advertising, so the not-work fills the space with commercials for itself. Yes. I must have seen the Stanford swimmer’s segment a dozen times. Every few minutes, its ten viewers are treated to advertising telling us how fantastic the not-work is.

That isn’t marketing. It’s masturbation, and comical masturbation at that. Seriously: while having failed in your most basic mission, which is to get on TV so you can sell advertising, rather than spare me a bunch of commercial breaks, you are going to go on and on about your virtues? Do you not understand that when the only advertising content you have to offer is to rhapsodize yourself, you have failed? You are a conference comprised of twelve research universities, all with educational claims to fame and pride, which attract some of the best and brightest people in the world, and you leave the house without your pants? Mr. Larry Scott, you are a Harvard graduate. For the gods’ sake, put some trousers on. No one needs to see you this way.

Not that the satellite and cable providers are any prizes in the area of doing what’s best for viewers. DefectiveTV, which is what I have, engages in a ‘playground recess hair-pulling skirmish of the month’ with some content provider just about every month, taking its message to the blacked-out channels to explain how those nasty stupids at (insert network name) have been unreasonable, pulled their content, and tried to force us all to pay through the nose, but only DefectiveTV stands Promethean in defense of our fair prices and sweet reason. Yeah. When every recess, the same kid is always in a fight with someone, always comes whining, and never takes any responsibility for even being half the problem, guess what. It’s obvious where most of the problem lies.

The much-vaunted Pac-12 Networks are Not-works. They are a failure. At this point, we would be better off without them, since the games they show would otherwise be picked up on other channels, all of which seem not to consider themselves too ultra-special to get a deal worked out and be on the air.

Every year, it is a little more about pure greed and big money, and a little less about athletics and education. I will always wish UW well, but I can see a day where, if this trend continues, I simply won’t care about watching the sport. At which time I will cease to be an advertising consumer, be it for idiotic pickup truck commercials appealing to my machismo, idiotic insurance commercials appealing to my gullibility, or idiotic beer commercials appealing to my pedestrian tastes.

Mr. Scott, you and your networks are a failure.

The best ass-covering you could come up with was to blame it all on the other side, and sick your athletic directors on the public, encouraging them to switch providers. (For some of us, with no provider in our areas that carries the Not-works, a non-starter.) “Waaaaaaah! They started it! Waaaah! Punish them!

It’s looking positively Congressional.

Just another area of America in which the stupidity of the public is taken on faith by the wealthy and powerful, and where, if said public notices something wrong and complains that ‘this is bullshit,’ the public is fed a line of crap and told to stop being difficult.

I’ll give you difficult. Mr. Scott, so far you have boloed this exercise. You are a no go at this station. You snubbed BYU/Utah, the perfect regional, rivalry and research fit for the conference, simply because a Mormon school icks out Left Coast schools, with all that honor code and right-wing political stuff–as if that were relevant at all to research or athleticism. Instead, you brought in Colorado, which is about as Pacific as Wyoming and has a minimal existing rivalry relationship with Utah. Mr. Scott, if this is how you roll, I wouldn’t hire you to manage a Division 5 conference, much less a I-A BCS conference. You have failed. The results speak for themselves. You are the John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi of collegiate athletics. Enjoy that prestigious distinction.

In the meantime, Commissioner Scott, go to hell.

The ‘Water Follies’

This weekend is what we in Kennewick call ‘Boat Race Weekend.’  It’s official name is ‘Water Follies.’  What it is, okay, is an air show and hydroplane races on the Columbia.  It’s the big annual event here, and happens in Columbia Park, which is one of the few things that was done right from the city’s earliest development. Our entire river shore, all 5-6 miles of it, is a park.  Some is nearly undeveloped, despite the best efforts of corporations to turn it into a profit center, and the best efforts of certain Distinguished Statespersons to permit this.  However, Boat Races isn’t really much happening anywhere else in the Tri-Cities, except on the opposite (Pasco) river shore. It’s fairly easy for most of us to avoid, long as we don’t have to go over the blue bridge at the wrong time.

“So what, J.K.? In what universe do we care?”

Credit to thefreedictionary.com:

fol·ly  (fl)

n. pl. fol·lies

1. A lack of good sense, understanding, or foresight.
2.

a. An act or instance of foolishness: regretted the follies of his youth.
b. A costly undertaking having an absurd or ruinous outcome.
3. follies (used with a sing. or pl. verb) An elaborate theatrical revue consisting of music, dance, and skits.
4. Obsolete

a. Perilously or criminally foolish action.
b. Evil; wickedness.
c. Lewdness; lasciviousness.

Well, we may certainly assume there will be a lack of good sense exercised. Why this should be a civic virtue eludes me. Then I look at the way the city runs, and maybe it’s just a frank moment of civic intellectual honesty. All right, but why celebrate foolishness? Why call these ‘follies?’ Aren’t we supposed to put our foolishness in the closet with Uncle Fred, not out on the lawn with the Travelocity gnomes for all creatures great and small to see?

I suppose it is a very costly undertaking, and does have ruinous outcomes. It somewhat ruins my weekend, for example, if I had hopes of going to the park.  Boats blow over, people get drunk and sunburned, and all this for the sake of a sport that has to rig itself; that sounds ruinous. As I understand it, if you win too often, the sport’s organizers nerf your boat so it doesn’t get boring. (Even though this is limiting, it’s technically called ‘unlimited’ hydroplane racing. Oh, okay.) Imagine requiring Michael Phelps to swim with ankle weights on. Essentially, though, hydro racing is Nascar on the water, in nearly every sense but the duration of action. Nascar takes a lot longer.

Okay, very well, there’s another meaning: a vaudeville show or its modern incarnation. Saturday Night Live is mostly ‘follies.’ Tony Orlando and Dawn also was. (And you had blocked them from your memory until this moment, hadn’t you?) That one doesn’t apply at all.

There will be perilous and criminally foolish action, such as young people drinking too much, and boats blowing over. Someone could break his neck, drown, etc. Evil and wickedness? Seems pushing it to me. There’ll be a few boat race pregnancies, and probably someone will end up in the ER for being drunk, but neither of those are evil or wicked, just folly. Lewdness and lascivious used to be the order of the day, where (I am told) “What happened at Boat Races, stayed at Boat Races.” Yeah.  This from most of the same people who call east Kennewick and east Pasco ‘bad areas.’ I do not really believe them. I think they remember it through a lens that imagines the event more bacchanalian than it really was. Populations are very capable of a collective dementia in which they distort the past perception.

In the end, though, the title ‘Follies’ is unintentionally candid. A bunch of people will get together and some of them will show great folly. They will watch a sport that meets a couple definitions of folly, though not the ones the event planners intended. About the only thing not a folly is the air show, which is cool.

Best of all, I can watch that from my deck, go nowhere near Columbia Park, and stay out of the way of folly. But if you like that stuff, hey, party on.

Why people love college football

Granted, not everyone does.  But college football brings with it aspects that simply are not found in professional football, and they are the reasons I like it.  And non-Americans often wonder why in the world we get so wrapped up in this.  Well…

  • 98% of players will never sign seven-figure contracts.  Many are playing to get college educations, and some play and pay their own way.  When I think of what they go through, that’s incredible.
  • A lot of otherwise smart people from lousy backgrounds get chances to get their heads on straight, become educated, experience a different world, have better lives.
  • College football teams do not hold their cities for ransom.  The Seahawks might threaten to move away one day if Seattle doesn’t build them an even fancier stadium.  The Washington Huskies are not leaving Seattle, period.
  • Every region of this nation save Alaska has nearby college football, a rallying point for local interest and pride.
  • Each school has its own set of unifying traditions that make participation more fun, from Texas A&M’s all-male yell leaders to the Stanford Band to the Gator chomp.  Archaic fight songs, unofficial spirit songs, chants, clothing choices, and so much more.
  • One can have a whole bunch of teams one likes, and a whole bunch one just loathes.
  • It’s a better way to channel some old ghosts:  rivalry.  Most people outside Kansas and Missouri, for example, do not know that our states once fought a terrible war, one that had gone on seven years before the Civil War began, with numerous atrocities and reprisals on both sides.  The ghosts still stir a bit, but the annual rivalry matchup gives a way to channel and express that–and a way to remind ourselves that this is a much better way to express it than what we did in the 1850s, which was arson, rustling, robbery, rape, torture and murder.
  • It pays the way for most of the other sports.  Football revenue makes it possible to have men’s golf, women’s tennis, women’s soccer, etc.  Yes, college football is business–but it’s a business that provides lots of ways to be a college athlete, most of them money-losers for the school.
  • College football is diverse and unpredictable.  So many different styles of play, and with amateur players, so many comical and unexpected results.  Weird stuff happens in college ball.
  • Specialty schools with appeal for unique reasons:  military academies, religious schools, prestigious academic schools, and so on.  Every LDS person who wishes can take pride in BYU football; same for Roman Catholics and Notre Dame.  The whole Navy cares about Navy football.  And those who admire outstanding academics must surely respect Stanford and Yale.

In all these areas, college football just pushes the professional version into a wastewater lagoon.

Go Huskies!

Off to Walla Walla

Nephew’s first away game is at WWCC, so we’re going to go take in some of it after a swing past the antique show.  Hopefully my navigation isn’t as inept as last time I went there.  For those of you not familiar with Washington, our main state penitentiary (the one with the gallows and the gurney; in Washington, criminals can still hang) is at Wally, and it’s fairly out of the way.  Undeterred, I got sufficiently lost and confused by atrocious road construction that I pulled up right outside the slammer.  Fortunately, I didn’t get invited in.

With luck, JD will get to play.  He hasn’t seen the field yet this year, and it’s a new experience for him, pining it.  (For me in baseball, it was the commonplace norm, with my many athletic deficiencies.)  It’s that way for all of us in college, or at least most of us:  “Wow.  All my life I was the best player/(or smartest kid).  Good lord…so were all these people.  I’m going to have to pack my lunch.”

Wally’s a pretty nice town, though, so I don’t mind going over there.  Its primary industries, besides growing sweet onions, are educating the young (one university, one college and one CC) and incarcerating those who declined to be educated.  It has a religious background, based somewhat on the Whitman College heritage of Methodist education (their mascot is still the Missionaries).  The university, WWU, is an Adventist school.  The Whitties get a real good education, though one pays handsomely for it–it is a very highly regarded liberal arts college.  Less known is that Wally was at one point the primary city in Washington Territory, a contender for the state capital.  Not happening now.

March Sadness

That’s what it is for me.  Except for hoping KU wins it all, I just go to a happy place.  It’s something that screws up my favorite TV shows.  Give me a holler when it’s over, or if KU gets to the final four.

Why not UW? Well, it’s okay with me if UW does well, but I’ve got a long memory.  When I was at UW, no football player ever tried to get me to write his paper for him.  Basketball players did.  Also, when I was at UW, I was never hassled by a football player.  I got some from basketball players.  So in addition to not liking the sport at all to begin with (everything I was ever good at in sports is a foul in basketball), I didn’t find any passion to care if we won or not.   I wouldn’t root against UW, just didn’t much care.

The women are another story.  They never asked me to write their papers and they certainly never tried to bully me (and some of them could have…those are some big gals).  Go Dawgs!

Embarrassment

So this afternoon, I went to my nephew’s opening collegiate ballgame.  (Double drag for him:  he didn’t get to play, and his team lost.)  It was good baseball, but I was embarrassed on behalf of Columbia Basin College, the Tri-Cities, and on behalf of my country.

Now, I’m not a flag waver, but I do stand up for the national anthem (of any country).  And when a team visits from another country, as did the Prairie Baseball Academy of Lethbridge, AB, Canada, I believe strongly that we should show them the courtesy of playing the visiting anthem as well–thus demonstrating friendship and respect.  It’s done at hockey games all the time.  What is wrong with Americans, that they so often don’t know how to be good hosts and make a gesture of courtesy to international visitors?

Shame, CBC.  You embarrassed our entire area.  PBA Prairie Dawgs, well played, and my apologies for the boorish thoughtlessness.