Ask Washington fans, and odds are they’ll tell you that ESPN hates the Huskies. And the league they play in.
They’re furious up in Seattle. They don’t get no respect. The loss to Arizona State on Saturday seemed to produce less rage than ESPN’s Quint Kessenich using cupcakes to illustrate UW’s non-league schedule a week earlier.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. From Tempe to Pullman, L.A. to Salt Lake City, you can find fans who will lay out the evidence and conclude that ESPN is loaded with animosity toward the Pac-12.
It’s not true, but when have facts ever mattered to rabid fans?
Nonetheless, let’s look at the arguments calmly.
ESPN has an East Coast bias • Frankly, all national media have an East Coast bias because that’s where most Americans live. Almost 77 percent of viewers … er, uh, the U.S. population … lives in the Eastern and Central time zones. That’s where the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC reside, and ESPN has deals with all of them.
But it also has a deal with the Pac-12, and it makes zero sense that ESPN would systemically undercut the league.
ESPN forces the Pac-12 to play late games • It didn’t force the league to sign a $3 billion deal with ESPN and Fox that includes lots of late games — which are a function of geography. ESPN and Fox want late games to fill their schedules; it’s not outrageous to have an 8 p.m. Pacific start; it would be insane to have an 11 p.m. Eastern kickoff.
This issue pops up every so often when somebody complains. UW Coach Chris Petersen complained recently, and ESPN smacked him down on-air, pointing out the Pac-12 gets more viewers for games that start late.
Conventional wisdom can be wrong • ESPN itself helped foster the belief that late games are bad. Way back in 2009 — pre-expansion — ESPN.com posted a blog headlined “Five things I hate about the Pac-10,” and Ted Miller (since laid off) complained that a matchup of ranked Pac-10 teams had kicked off at 8 p.m. Pacific:
“The West Coast is three hours behind the East Coast. Can’t change that. But when a front-line Pac-10 game starts at night, Pacific Daylight Time, it means that most of the rest of the college football nation is fast asleep when the clock strikes zero.”
The obvious rebuttal to ESPN’s numbers showing more people watch Pac-12 late games than earlier kickoffs is — yeah, but aren’t most of those viewers in the West?
Nope.Turns out 60 percent of viewers for the Pac-12′s afternoon games are in the Eastern and Central time zones. For night games, that figure rises to 65 percent.
Good point, badly made • On “GameDay,” Kirk Herbstreit really did say that Washington and the Pac-12 “should be thanking ESPN” for telecasting their games.
That sounded pompous and obnoxious. Because it was. And it obscured Herbstreit’s bigger point — that “now your games are seen.”
Just because Herbstreit arrogantly asked if Petersen would rather play afternoon games on the Pac-12 Network than get national exposure on ESPN doesn’t mean he wasn’t right.
ESPN analysts say negative things about the Pac-12 • ESPN analysts say negative things about everybody. They’re paid to express opinions, and some honestly believe the SEC is better than the Pac-12.
But that doesn’t mean ESPN hates the Pac-12.
Hey, Lee Corso is still arguing that Southern Cal will win the national championship.
Fan is short for fanatic • And one of the synonyms in the dictionary is “hothead.”
Do a quick internet search and you’ll find those who believe ESPN hates each Power Five league, each Group of Five league and each team in them.
Oh my heck, there are BYU fans who argue that ESPN is biased against the Cougars.
None of it is true, but that doesn’t lessen the passion of those who believe it is.