Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tennessee loses..

Ah well, UT lost to Penn State in the Outback Bowl yesterday. We're now 0-3 against the Nittany Lions in bowl games, although thank goodness this loss wasn't nearly as bad as the Fiesta "Fiasco" Bowl loss back in the early 90's (does anyone remember the hit on QB Andy Kelly back against our own goal that caused him to cough up the ball straight into a Penn State defender's arms, who ran it into the end zone?).

I can definitely agree with Big Orange Michael that the ESPN coverage of the game was unfairly slanted toward Penn State. Now, it's the network's prerogative to feature one team over another if they feel the attention is warranted. I can understand the repeated shots of Penn State fans in the stands (including the three idiots in the football players rubber masks and shoulder pads and the other idiot in the JoePa rubber mask they kept showing - I mean, we do have Checkerboard Head so I can't really complain). I can understand the stories about the guy who cut his hair even though Paterno was really instructing someone else to, but the guy did it "just in case" - cute college football player story. And since ESPN was pushing Bobby Knight's 881st win, the anecdote about he and Paterno almost coaching for the same school was a big reach but hey, they have to promote it somehow. Then there was the timeline of Paterno's career, the trivia question about who was president when he started coaching, the Lion mascot... Does someone detect a trend? I may not like it, but all the camera angles and feature stories about one team over another may be annoying to the other team but I can live with it.

However, inexcusable was using Todd Blackledge - former Penn State alumni and, oh, did I mention All American quarterback from 1983 under Joe Paterno - as color commentator on the game was extremely unprofessional of ESPN. I counted at least three times they put up either photos of Blackledge as a player or video clips of him introducing his Penn State teammates before their 1983 bowl game. While I thought he handled himself fairly graciously, praising Tennessee when they did things right (not often) and chastising Penn State when they messed up (again, not that often) the appearance of impropriety was as blatant as I'd ever seen.

Can you imagine the uproar if Peyton Manning had been calling the game? We would have never heard the end of the bias accusations.

Of course, all the network bias in the world didn't affect the outcome of the game in any way - even if Manning had been the color commentator, John Ward calling play-by-play for ESPN and the network strung orange crepe paper around the broadcast booth while running clips of Eric Ainge in his first 5-yr-old grasshopper league game, we still would've lost. It just made the experience that less pleasant to watch.

Bob Kesling and the WIVK radio call feed was inexplicably almost 5 seconds behind the live TV coverage, so I turned them off after a while. Another inexcusable error, not that I minded not hearing Kesling mangle the down-and-distance like usual or praise Travis Henry for running the ball, even though he's been in the NFL for 5 years...

But really, the worst thing about the ESPN coverage wasn't the bias, or the clips, or Blackledge in his 1983 mullet - it was the interminable shots of that Troll, Paterno relaxing in the coaching box, watching the game like any other fan. I can't stand that guy.

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