Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gameday Recap

Week 1
September 1, 2007
Blacksburg, Va - East Carolina vs. Virginia Tech

A whole new year begins. For the newcomers, here's what I wrote last year about why I do this:

Why do I do this? The show wields a lot of power in college football. The sport is broadly spread out, so much so that nobody can really be an expert on all 119 teams. A filter is necessary, and ESPN pretty much is all there is. Coverage on Gameday sets the tone for how teams are perceived, and there is a direct correlation between favorable coverage and poll position. This show may affect who gets to play for the national title. For that, I think the pundits on the show need to be held accountable for how they present the teams and games. So I watch and repeat what they say.

So away we go.

General thoughts: ESPN wasn't in an easy spot in terms of covering VT with respect to the tragedy last Spring, but it was also a spot ESPN chose - and clearly chose how to cover. While I sense ESPN felt they had to cover the school a certain way, it's also hard not to feel some sense of exploitation. I don't know how it should've been covered. I know I felt uncomfortable after a while the first time watching it through. I also got the sense that a lot of the fans in the background would've preferred to have the coverage be about the game and less about the tragedy.

Anyway, my job is to focus on the pundits on the show.


  • Opening segment is all about coping and healing.
  • Person on the street interviews - several are about how they're all starting to move on. One wonders how ESPN coming and bringing it all up again helps that.
  • Corso: "I know it's ironic, but I'm not so sure anybody in the country could have handled that tragedy as well as these people..." How this is ironic is beyond me. Also, I get that he wants to say that Blacksburg is a good, strong community, but I'm also pretty sure that a lot of college towns would've responded well to a tragedy like that. Lots of college towns have. Huntington, WV, for one. Herbstreit responds with "there's no doubt about that."
  • Herbstreit takes a shot at the national media for promoting the idea that students transfer from VT. Unsure where that comes from.
  • KH: VT fans have been waiting for this moment as a chance to move on. Is ESPN's coverage hindering that? Sometimes I think these guys could have a better sense of their own role in the stories.
  • Seven minutes into coverage, and the first football-related sentence: CF says VT is pretty good and that ECU was a bowl team.
  • KH: VT is "absolutely a national championship caliber football team..." also that we won't find out how good VT is against ECU, but rather the next week at LSU.
  • LC: VT's special teams make them "#1 in my mind for a shot at [the MNC]".
  • KH: the "Game of the Day" is Tennessee-Cal, which is also the game he happens to be covering.
  • KH: DeSean Jackson is "one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy"
  • LC: "It won't matter who is playing QB for the Irish today" because ND has a good tight end. Prescient analysis, sort of. Indeed, it didn't matter who was playing QB because none could handle the defense.
  • Fowler calls the University of Georgia "Uhhgahh" to my great disappointment. Three years running now. Say it with me "YOU-GEE-A". You don't call the University of Virginia "Uhh-vahh" and you don't call the University of California at Los Angeles "Uck-Lah". Ass.
  • KH: takes a shot at Wisconsin's scheduling, Fowler laughs along. "Actually going outside of 1-AA and playing a Pac-10 team." Just because I'm a pedant, I "actually" checked Wisconsin's schedule. Number of OOC games against 1-AA opponents since 1995: 3. Number of OOC games against Pac-10 teams since 1995: 5 (not including WSU on Saturday). DO NOT TRUST THESE PEOPLE TO GIVE YOU ACCURATE INFORMATION. TRUST THEM TO GIVE YOU CONVENTIONAL WISDOM THAT IS OFTEN INACCURATE.
  • CF: expects a blowout in the USC-Idaho game, asks how many times the USC punter will be employed. The answer: He punted twice.
  • KH: Arizona-BYU is interesting, Arizona could pull upset because John Beck isn't at BYU anymore. (They didn't)
First Commercial Break

  • Desmond Howard is chatting online in the Gameday bus. He's wearing a tie and dress shirt. Remember this. He also looks like he might be faking the typing.
  • Fowler says Appalachian State is a "good" 1-AA team, but when Herbstreit smarmily says "so are you giving them a chance today?" Fowler demurs. "Chad Henne could set a record today if they keep him in the game."
  • KH: Michigan is on a mission this year, and it starts against "poor old Appalachian State". It'll be interesting how they cover this next week. They did not give any respect to ASU.
  • LC: "Jim" Laurinitis is the best defensive player in the nation. Let's see how many other players over the course of the year are the best.
  • Fowler is in midseason form for annoying me with pronunciation. First appearance of "Joap-uh" instead of Joe-Pah.
  • CF: What's the deal with these Big Ten openers! And airplane food too!
  • Corso gives his annual sermon on how important it is to schedule cupcakes. Herbstreit baked cupcakes.
  • KH: ADs and Coaches want easy wins, but players want tough games.
  • KH: Teams like Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama "have no business playing 1-AA teams". Prescient analysis, though not the intended way.
  • Herbstreit's point is that teams should schedule one good opponent, one second tier opponent, and a couple of cupcakes. OK, if we take him at his word... why is he badmouthing so many programs today? Might some of those teams that play cupcakes today be playing good/second tier opponents in the coming weeks? Incomplete analysis.
  • Fowler says cupcake schedules are bad and should be avoided for "the good of the sport and not just the bottom line". Is this really the argument he wants to make? Was Gameday traveling to USC for a game against a weak Nebraska team instead of traveling to one of two SEC matchups between ranked opponents "for the good of the sport and not just the bottom line"? Does Shelley Smith cover human interest stories only about USC players "for the good of the sport and not just the bottom line"?
Second Commercial Break

  • New coaches in the ACC. Fowler says NC State actually wasn't playing a cupcake in UCF - good call there.
  • WIRED with Randy Shannon! The return of the most worthless, least informative segment of the show. Although at one point you could hear a police siren on the practice field. And it was Miami, not Illinois.
  • KH says 8 wins is a good year for Miami, doesn't buy their offense.
  • LC, in traditional defend-the-coach position, says (a) Shannon's under pressure because Coker went 60-15, and (b) 6 wins is a great year for Shannon.
  • Decent coverage of BC-Wake. Surprisingly game-focused. First time all day they've actually talked for more than a second about injuries, returning starters, etc.
  • KH: Best QB in ACC is Matt Ryan.
  • KH: Admits he was way slow to buy into Wake. Picks them, incorrectly. Can't win for losing.
  • CF: Duke's best chance to win this year was vs. UConn. They didn't. "Could stretch to 30".
Third Commercial Break

  • More man on the street interviews at VT.
  • Frank Beamer joins the set. Less than 90 minutes to kickoff. Perhaps had he been with his team and staff instead, they might've moved the ball a little on ECU.
  • Interview is almost entirely not-football-related, though Beamer tries to turn it to football.
Fourth Commercial Break

  • Gillette Game Face returns. No face paint.
  • Talk about Florida.
  • Segment on speed conditioning at Florida. Sounds like Wendy Nix reporting. Not exactly a technical report (mainly boils down to "training to get fast means running"), but at least it's about the sport, instead of most of the BS that their segments cover.
  • Desmond Howard is now on the fake field wearing shorts and a t-shirt and dragging a weight sled. Demonstrates quickness drills. Relatively interesting and useful.
  • Herbstreit has to sooth his own ego, by chiming in that Desmond Howard played in the Big 10 and looked pretty fast. Clearly referring to his atrocious puffery of Ohio State last year and the onslaught of coverage about how fast Florida was after they annihilated the Buckeyes.
  • Fowler adds to that that "We were all shocked... the whole world" at how slow OSU was. First off, that's not true. There were quite a few fans who thought Florida would have better speed last year. Second, a lot of the "whole world" thought that way because Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit had been telling them for 4 months how much better than everyone else Ohio State was. You guys are complicit!
  • Fowler says Florida "for the first time ever" is playing a team from 1-AA. OK. All caps on now because this is just utterly stupid. FLORIDA IS NOT PLAYING A 1-AA TEAM FOR THE "FIRST TIME EVER". IT IS THE FIRST TIME IN FOUR, YES, COUNT THEM, FOUR FREAKING GAMES, THAT FLORIDA HAS PLAYED A 1-AA TEAM. FLORIDA PLAYED WESTERN CAROLINA ON NOVEMBER 18, 2006. FOUR WHOLE GAMES AGO!!!!!!!!!!!! Florida also played 1-AA teams in 2003 (FAMU), 1998 (Citadel), 1996 (Georgia Southern), 1990 (Furman), 1988 (Montana State), 1986 (Georgia Southern), 1983 (Indiana State), and 1982 (West Texas A&M) and that's as far back as I went. GELHEADS: UNLESS YOU'VE FACT-CHECKED A STATEMENT, DON'T SAY IT. EDIT: This might even be worse than I thought. Western Kentucky isn't even a 1-AA team anymore. They're a Provisional 1-A team, playing 6 1-A opponents this year. They'll be a member of the Sun Belt in a few years. So Fowler is wrong about (a) Florida even playing a 1-AA opponent and (b) they've never done that before. Nice work.
  • Pat Forde, who should know better, fails to correct and restates that it's Florida's first 1-AA opponent.
  • LC: Florida won a lot of games close last year, lost a lot of talent. Corso thinks Florida won't win the SEC or MNC because of lack of experience for fourth quarters.
  • KH: Buys into the idea that Tebow is perfect for Meyer's system. "Florida will have the best offense in the SEC". Herbstreit thinks it'll actually depend on whether the defense can "gel" - and speaking of that, the HD cameras do not help Herbstreit look better. Greasy and bronzed. The Lady walked by while this was on and thought Herbstreit looked like a gay porn star with that fake tan.
Fifth Commercial Break.

  • No plans to change anything about Michael Vick at VT.
  • Segue to Notre Dame quarterbacks, somehow.
  • Charlie Weis's press conference gets clips shown (unlike 110+ other coaches), but for some reason the arrogant, jackass, "I'm smarter than you"-type comments aren't shown. Interesting editorial decision.
  • Mark May brought on to talk about Notre Dame. May provides reasonable, intelligent analysis on why Georgia Tech is simply better than ND today - and that ND will struggle offensively. He was 100% correct about this game, so give him some credit.
  • Herbstreit thinks Demetrius Jones will get the nod at Notre Dame. Only 4 days after bloggers wrote about it.
  • KH thinks there might be some CRAZY formations and schemes for Notre Dame on offense and Notre Dame wins, though outplayed.
  • Corso thinks Mark May stole all his material, because he also mentions how GT's offense will confuse the new ND QBs.
  • Fowler reminds us that two excellent punters will be in the ND-GT game.
  • Desmond Howard is back in the bus, back in his shirt and tie. Were some of these segments pre-taped? It didn't look like it. Here it definitely looks like Desmond was faking the typing.
Sixth Commercial Break (second hour starts)

  • More VT person on the street interviews.
  • Tom Rinaldi is on set to lead into his gauze-lens piece on VT.
  • This was the segment that I felt bordered on exploitation.
Seventh Commercial Break (now set up inside the stadium)

  • Auburn-Kansas State. Brief discussion.
  • Georgia-Oklahoma State. Also very brief.
  • KH: All the talk about Oklahoma State playing well will fire up Georgia. No mention about how he had just talked about Oklahoma State playing well.
  • Corso thinks Mississippi will lose to Memphis.
  • Fowler thought Troy might play well at Arkansas.
  • Nick Saban talk.
  • Wendy Nix does a short interview segment on Nick Saban. Asks some good questions, and Saban answers them like a very very well trained interviewee.
  • Wins in Saban's first season? Corso says 9. Herbstreit also says 9.
Eighth Commercial Break

  • Fowler tells us that Sean Glennon (VT QB) wants to make an impact like the Yankees after 9/11 and the Saints after Katrina. Neither team won a title.
  • More VT tragedy talk.
  • Fowler tosses to Tirico, who tosses to Erin Andrews, who looks hot and talks about the Lunchpail and the defense. Erin tosses back to Tirico, who talks to Bill Curry and Todd Blackledge. More tragedy talk, little football talk.
  • Fowler has said "Emotions continue to build" about 5 times so far.
  • Some Wisconsin-Washington State talk. Corso tells us for the third time today that he used to coach in the Big Ten. Corso thinks WSU covers but loses and Herbstreit seems to think the same thing.
  • Google Earth provides Herbstreit's itinerary from VT to California.
  • Some Tennessee-Cal talk. Review of last year's game with interviews with Cal players (but barely any Tennessee players, oddly).
  • Herbstreit shows us how Ainge will grip the ball with a broken pinky. Amazing - news that is actually useful to viewers and fact-based/technical.
  • Corso: Tennessee needs to run the ball to stay in it. "Cal... Please!!!" Herbstreit points out that Corso whiffed on picking Cal last year to play in the title game.
  • Fowler rubs it in a little that Corso picked Cal.
  • They flip over to Desmond, who looks like he's still fake typing. He offers a couple of brief comments about Cal's receivers, and says something about a blogger. Not that I don't appreciate the effort, but this segment feels kind of boardroom-imposed "we need to use the internet to connect with people, like blogs and stuff". Doesn't feel organic, and these little bits also seem to be too short to actually cover football's world online. Maybe they'll refine this bit.
Ninth Commercial Break

  • More VT tragedy talk.
  • USC coverage.
  • Fowler reminds us that the last 5 preseason #1 teams have gotten to the BCS title game, though 4 lost. Remember that every time someone says early polls don't matter.
  • Shelley Smith, stunningly, has a semi-in-depth report on USC, this time on John David Booty. At what point will they become self-referential and note that Shelley Smith's coverage is parody.
  • Bruce Feldman phones in to give some local coverage of the game. I personally like the idea of bringing in other writers who might have some actual information.
  • That said, Feldman passes along a story about how USC's defensive coordinator related a story about how Vandals conquered Rome but were crushed by the Trojans. This is not historically accurate. The Vandals' defeats were at the hands of the Byzantine Empire, the Ostrogoths and the Moors, all in the 5th century AD. The Homeric Troy that the USC Trojans are akin to was around in approximately 1300 BC, nearly 2 millenia beforehand. Wikipedia, Google. These are your friends, journalists. Also: might not be a good idea to rely on football coaches for history lessons. Football schemes, most certainly.
  • Corso thinks USC stumbles on the road in the Pac-10, because in the past they've lost on the road too.
Tenth Commercial Break

  • Pontiac Game Changer: LC - Eddie Royal, KH - Matthew Stafford, CF - Cody Hawkins. Fowler picks his alma mater. Herbstreit gets the best pick this week.
  • Saturday Stupid Selections: LC - WSU to cover, Oklahoma State to cover. KH - Colorado State, WSU to cover, Wake Forest, Notre Dame. Corso picked a lot better this week.
  • Live, in stadium VT tragedy coverage. That was a really short moment of silence. We never had one that short in homeroom in high school.
Eleventh Commercial Break

  • Live tragedy coverage, tribute video.
  • Finally, the team comes out and I get the sense that a whole lot of Hokie fans just want to pay attention to a football game. Maybe I'm wrong. Seems to me that the fans are ready for the game to get there already.
  • Corso puts the Hokie head on.
  • Seriously, when the crowd goes crazy for Enter Sandman, you can't tell me that all of the tragedy coverage was a little overdone by ESPN. Perhaps they didn't have an alternative. I don't know. I think they probably could've talked about the Virginia Tech game at least a little.
Not a normal show for the crew, so perhaps we'll see something different next week at LSU. Here's hoping they actually talk about the game, and not just respective local tragedies.

10 comments:

peacedog said...

Good stuff as always.

I'm a Realist said...

I may just be cynical, but how, exactly, is a football game taking place 4 1/2 months later going to soothe the wounds from a school shooting? It's 4 1/2 months later.

With Katrina and 9/11, it was more about showing that the cities of New Orleans and New York, respectively, were bigger than the nation's greatest tragedies. The emotion here was just a little too contrived. Had the school shooting been two weeks ago, then the "emotions" angle might have played a little better for me.

BTW, I noticed the extremely short moment of silence as well. The least they could have done was make it last 32 seconds. I think it was 5 seconds, tops. I guess they were running short on time and still had to get all of the sponsors up on Hokievision.

Kanu said...

You haven't lost your touch; still way better than the show.

"...it's hard not to feel some sense of exploitation..."

To me it seemed like 100% over the top exploitation, especially since they announced and planned on being at Cal-UT only to change their minds about 2 months ago when surely some programming exec decided it would have a higher Q rating or be a better draw for the casual sports fan. They could have easily done a nice respectful piece about it and that was that; instead they chose to make it the centerpiece of the entire show & day, and went to the well early and often, which was just cable news-esque over the top. And then, in true ESPN fashion, they went around congratulating themselves for the rest of the day for handling that situation with so much class {they said this to each other at several times for the rest of the day- announcers, SC hosts, Musberger to KH, etc}, again making themselves a part of the story instead of just covering a story and getting the hell out of the way. Embarrassing for them, a new low.

Stop doing these right around never.

Hobnail_Boot said...

"KH: All the talk about Oklahoma State playing well will fire up Georgia. No mention about how he had just talked about Oklahoma State playing well."

You just summed up right there the problem with ESPN; they take no accountability for their own heavy affect in what happens.

I predict you're gonna pull your hair out next week due to all of the Katrina/shooting mirror stories.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm proud of myself. I didn't watch that gameday at all. I felt that even showing east carolina vs. vt on gameday at all was sort of exploiting. A lot of the espn news casters are upsetting to me as well, as they appear to be so for you too, and since I have a dvr, I usually just rewind and watch more of the actual game when they show up, and change the channel if the game isn't on.

peacedog said...

IAR, I'm kind of with you hear. It all felt. . . tacky? I mean, why in sam-hell are we interviewing the Virginia Governor about the committee findings? It's a football game. Leave it to the proper media outlets.

Chg said...

Sounds like the Southern Cal DC would make a fine HS coach/history "teacher." Then Feldman proves that most sports journalists are every bit as dumb as the stereotype of the athletes they cover by passing along that tidbit. Morons.

brewer said...

If you want, "YOU-GEE-A" then don't name the mascot dog "Uhhgahh."

MarkJacksonShimmey said...

Here's a breakdown as to why they're going to talk about OSU, Michigan, ND, USC, Florida, etc.

Powerhouses in CFB=Ratings
Ratings=$
$=the basis of college football

If you think the coverage of these teams is unfair, don't blame the teams. Blame the system (aka BC$) and save the potshots at the big boys. Just learn to live with it, like the rest of us.

LD said...

You're right brewer.

In fact, now I'm going to call the University of Southern California "Traveler", the University of Tennessee "Smokey", and the University of Texas "Bevo".

markjacksonshimmey: I don't blame the teams. Read my archives. I've been doing this 3 years now. Coverage affects the structure of the game. I point out bad coverage.