ESPN’s College Football Playoff coverage is a problem. It needs to be stopped. Please. For the love of god, please. Just do it for the kids.
Am I bitter? Of course I’m bitter. For starters, my favorite college football program, Virginia Tech, is a total dumpster fire in 2014, having started the season 2-0 with a marquee victory at the horseshoe over the Ohio State University — ranked #8 in the country at the time — only to see their season unravel to the point they’re at now, losers of five of their last seven and I can’t even remember another time that’s happened to the Hokies since I began following them in the late-90s.
Secondly, a healthy portion of what I write revolves around my disenchantment with ESPN in general, dissolving from legendary sports anchors into what you see now, which is more or less a loose conveyer belt of interchangeable parts. Or, interchangeable anchors. When I was a kid it made me feel cool and smart to be a sports fan, because the people presenting me the news from the sports world were both cool and smart. Now those people are lame, and it’s breeding a generation of sports fans less focused on wit and cleverness, more focused on the black and white screaming match debates that defeat the purpose of fandom in the first place. ESPN have replaced actual information with what people on Twitter have to say; it’s become a cesspool.
This specific area of the sports season — post-baseball, pre-college-basketball — means the talking heads have only a couple things to discuss: (1) NFL NFL NFL NFL NFL NFL NFL, and (2) the College Football Playoff, which is in its inaugural season having replaced the former BCS system.
And when it comes to the latter, I’m here to say: It sucks. It blows. There aren’t enough adjectives out there to convey how much it sucks dick, so I guess that’s going to have to do for now.
See, for the last few weeks, ESPN have dedicated an entire show to releasing the rankings of the top-25 teams according to a 12-person panel, which somehow uses metrics and strength of schedule and the eye-test to distinguish between which teams rank where. The top-four teams are the only ones who will have a shot at playing for the National Championship, and so those are the only teams worth focusing on. But since it’s ESPN, there has to be a full hour show each week to talk about how the #5 and #6 teams are being snubbed, why the #11 team should be ranked closer to #8, and why the team ranked #7 should really be, like, #10. And it’s fucking stupid.
The reason it’s fucking stupid? It’s fucking stupid because there are still like six weeks left in the goddamn season. The list is going to change each week, because highly-ranked teams are going to lose, and other teams are going to win. It doesn’t matter what the fucking rankings look like this week, or last week, or next week; they’re going to look entirely different by the end of the season.
But here’s ESPN with their whores, questioning each week the chairman of the 12-person panel, asking him all these questions behind the thought process of the groupthink.
Fans love this shit. They’re obsessed about it. Alabama fans are bitching about only being ranked 5th, when in reality it doesn’t matter what they’re ranked right now because they still have to play #1 Mississippi State, #9 Auburn and someone else who’s pretty fucking good if they make it to the SEC Championship game. If they take care of business, they’re going to be in the top-4 and have their shot at winning the National Championship. That’s all their fans should be thinking about, not some stupid-ass rankings from this week.
What ESPN is attempting to replicate is what CBS does once a year, in the middle of March, when the NCAA committee releases its 68-team field for the college basketball tournament. It’s brilliant for CBS because they hold a monopoly on the sports world for that specific hour each year. It’s final. You’re either in, or you’re not in. And once the games start, the rankings are essentially meaningless; you either win and keep playing or you lose and your season is over. And that’s all she wrote.
With this College Football Playoff, it’s pointless to care since the rankings aren’t static. Yes, ESPN can keep asking the same questions each week, keep receiving the same answers, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is still business to take care of. That’s why ESPN does what they do: They release the rankings on Tuesday night, talk about them for the rest of the night, then on Wednesday talk about it ad nauseam, whether it’s Mike & Mike, First Take, His & Hers, Around The Horn, PTI, then again on Sportscenter, et. al.
It’s the most narcissistic way of controlling the sports news; break the story, talk about the story, then spend the entirety of the following day recycling the same information until it’s interrupted by the latest NFL player to beat up his girlfriend. That’s why ESPN does this shit in the first place. They need shit to talk about for the next twenty hours.
The concept behind this is obviously effective. It riles up various fan bases and convinces them what they’re watching is actually important. If it wasn’t, why would they be talking about it?
At this point in my life I spend very little time following rankings, no matter the sport. Yeah, it’s always cool to see Duke rated highly in the college basketball polls, but it’s really just an empty number until the tournament begins. The regular season means so little in college basketball that’s it’s more a vehicle for the NCAA Tournament than anything else; the addition of two extra teams in the College Football Playoff further lessens the meaning of the college football regular season, though that’s dropped precipitously for well over a decade now, or at least since every goddamn team who has a 6-6 record was allowed into a bowl game.
What is important is next week’s game. Win that game, move on to the next week, and continue doing that until you’re one of the top-four teams in the country. That’s as simple as it gets.
We’re being poisoned by the sports news we get from ESPN, especially because the “E” for Entertainment has far and away trumped the integrity sports used to deliver.