Ohio State will play California at 7 tonight on Fox (WJW Channel 8) and, no, that’s not a typo. Fox, which holds the rights for PAC-12 games, receives a ratings gift in the form of the Buckeyes.
It would have been interesting to see how the game’s ratings fared against the most hyped game of the day — No. 6 Texas A&M vs. No. 1 Alabama in a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on WOIO Channel 19.
I suffer from no delusions. I know what the outcome would have been, but I am, if nothing else, curious. Make no mistake about it: Johnny Manziel and the Aggies (sounds like a ’50s doo-wop group, doesn’t it?) battling the Crimson Tide will make for great drama. After all, that is the only game that ’Bama lost last year. It also helped to cement the legend of the Texas gunslinger known as Johnny Football.
Revenge is always a key for great theater, but there will be more to it than that. Alabama has all the incentive in the world, including wanting to see the jaw of Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban unclenched for a change.
Yes, a butt whoopin’ would be nice for the Tide, but they might be distracted because of their own internal issue after a Yahoo! Sports investigation accused a former player of serving as the go-between for other SEC players and sports agents.
I’m shocked at the possibility. I’m mortified. College football isn’t clean. Someone alert the feds.
Revenge is the least interesting storyline. It doesn’t mean a thing given that ’Bama’s players are already wearing the bling.
But that little scandal will make for some interesting exchanges between play-by-play guy Verne Lundquist, who called this game the best he’s had since working the SEC on CBS (WOIO Channel 19), color guy Gary Danielson and sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson.
As will be obvious. Johnny Manziel. Mr. Football. Mr. The NCAA-Is-So-Afraid-Of-Me-They-Slapped-Me-On-The-Wrist because of my little autograph-signing issue. Lundquist knows there will be high interest.
“I think he’s proven to be a mesmerizing player on the field, a very compelling athlete, kind of dazzling with his ability to scramble and do things with his feet which helps him with his passing game as well, in my view” Lundquist said of Manziel. “He’s become the most polarizing athlete in college football in college sports probably because he’s received so much attention in the offseason.”
That might be an understatement.
Polarizing or not, there’s little denying talent, and although there will be plenty of storylines, what Manziel does on the field will count the most.
“He is a fine thrower of the football but it may be the least best thing he does as an athlete. His vision, competitiveness, leadership and ability to see plays before they happen all make him a tremendous weapon,” said Danielson, a former Browns quarterback. “You can’t take your eyes off of him when he’s on the field, very much like a Joe Namath or Magic Johnson. He just seems to command your attention during the game, even when he is on the sidelines.”
This afternoon, a game will be soap opera and competitive endeavor. Get your wings and beverage of choice.
Plenty of speculation came out of the recent Bloomberg Sports Business Summit related to broadcast contracts to two pro sports league and broadcast partners.
Allegedly, there is a real possibility that DirecTV and the NFL might part ways after their agreement for the NFL Sunday Ticket ends in 2014.
According to a Sports Business Journal report, the NFL is in talks with multiple distributors regarding the popular service that has 2 million subscribers.
Personally, I think the NFL would be wise to walk away from DirecTV’s exclusivity. Football is more popular than ever and if it took the package beyond a single distributor, it’s a safe bet that the number of subscribers would increase significantly and so would subsequent rights fees. NFL fans can already get their football fix across four networks, why should the Ticket be any different?
Then there’s a matter of the NBA, believe it or not.
The NBA’s regular-season ratings dipped 18 percent on TNT and 12 percent on ABC/ESPN, according to reports. Yet, it will probably reap a healthy raise in rights fees simply because of the launch of Fox Sports 1 and the need for popular programming on NBCSN and CBS Sports Network.
Don’t believe it can happen?
Anyone remember when Fox outbid CBS for the rights to NFC games 20 years ago? Some thought it paid an exorbitant amount at the time. As it turns out, it was a bargain by today’s standards.
According to Scarborough Research, 22 percent of NBA fans are young and affluent with six-figure incomes and the TV anywhere gadgets necessary for advertisers to get to them.
Now it’s quite possible that leagues are using the current sports broadcasting landscape as leverage, but do not be surprised if some programming takes up new television residences.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.