Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ESPN - cutting out the middle man since 1979

This year there will be 35 college bowl games. That’s an impressive number when you realize that there are 120 Division I college teams and you have to be at least .500 to make a bowl game. However money drives college sports as much as it does the pros (it just goes into different hands) so despite the fact that most fans pay minimal attention to most of these lower tier bowls three more have already been added to the 2014 season (because there will finally be playoffs and two teams will play twice one could be added without increasing the number of teams). These bowls will have teams from the lower conferences (MAC, Conference USA, and the Sunbelt).
You might ask who is pushing this? ESPN. The sports network will actually OWN two of the new bowls. Talk about cutting out the middle man. In fact ESPN already owns other bowls and will own 10-11 of them next year. This is a new level in the commercialization of sports – where events are now literally being created by media provider rather than the sport's body. (The evolution of the NFL has given the NFL Network a different feel - it is an underling of the league, not an outside entity). However I don’t necessarily feel it is a change to be decried. Sports exists to entertain. Big time college programs past the point of being about athletic competition for the players long, long ago. While there may be some nobleness in my weekly pickup game, entertainment is an industry and I can no more complain about this than about Paramount making a summer blockbuster to sell (although I can complain about insipid plots). Minor point – one of the bowls will be in the Bahamas. That will be the first bowl outside of North America in the modern era (Toronto had a bowl a few ago).


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