Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Man, that ESPN, they know how to hype a game. And just to prove how over-hyped it really was, the winner of the biggest game of the year immediately gagged losing to Vanderbilt. (Not that SEC road games are easy to win, mind you.)

OK, so Saturday’s Memphis v. Tennessee was a big deal. Number 1 versus Number 2. Both schools from the same state. Priscilla Presley was there. Dick Vitale yelled and screamed about color, excitement and passion. Memphis was the last unbeaten team in the country…blah, blah, blah.

So, for a regular season, non-conference game in February it was pretty big deal, but…

It sure seemed blown out of proportion…
And then the game started.

Argh…then it really seemed over-hyped. If you watched it, you know what we mean.

Is it possible that ESPN’s promotional juggernaut actually believes that bragging rights for the state of Tennessee is approximately one billion times more important than when #2 UNC played #3 Duke back on February 6th? And is ESPN oblivious to the fact that almost every year there is a #1, #2, and/or #3 match up for bragging rights in the ACC?

(Not to mention that the winner of said “game of the year” usually doesn’t lose it’s next conference game…)

There was much crowing about the 3.6 million that watched the broadcast, but let’s not forget that 3.9 million tuned in for UNC v. Duke in 2005 on CBS. Of course, ESPN was excited about the “most viewed game” in its history, but it should have been considering that fact that they hyped it like the Super Bowl.

When the asking price for a ticket hit the $5,000 mark (note we said “asking”), Memphis coach John Calipari said, "I would tell anybody if they could pay for their child's tuition for a year with their tickets, sell it, get a big screen [TV] from Best Buy…You can buy that and send your kids to college for a year on a ticket."

Kudos to Calipari for keeping this regular season, non-conference, intra-state rivalry in some form of proper perspective.

Not so much everybody else and almost every other media outlet.

Yesterday in the Washington Post, John Feinstein put it perfectly:

"Never has ESPN been more shameless than in the lead-up to Memphis-Tennessee. It was a big game, as February games go, but it was best summed up by Dick Vitale just before tipoff when he said, "Tuesday's night game against Vanderbilt is more important for Tennessee than this game is." This after ESPN spent the week acting as if the game was the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the World Series wrapped into one. Wonder if it would have been quite so colossal if it happened to be on CBS? Problem is no one can stop them. They own and operate most of sports, including high school sports, which they air constantly without any thought to what the over-exposure does to the kids involved."

Needless to say, the Big Game was blown a little bit out of proportion. But, hey, this is America, a nation built on blowing things out of proportion.

All ahead, full.

(AP Photos/Mark Humphrey, AP Photo/Alan Spearman)

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