There’s a post-Labor Day rush of thoughts on football of all stripes and types. Let’s get to it:
(1) Longhorn Network Carriage – Anyone that has followed conference realignment over the past couple of years understands the importance of the ESPN-owned Longhorn Network. In my opinion, it’s the single greatest factor that is keeping Texas in the Big 12, and in turn, Texas has the ability to cause a greatest earthquake out of any school on the college sports landscape (even more than Notre Dame) if it ever chooses to move. Therefore, it’s key to keep an eye on Longhorn Network carriage in the State of Texas and its environs.
Last week, the Longhorn Network finally signed up AT&T U-Verse as its first of what would considered to be “major” cable carriers after a year of being on the air. From those who recollect the carriage disputes in the Midwest when the Big Ten Network was formed, it took about a year for the top cable carriers such as Comcast to add the channel (with the one major difference being that DirecTV had the BTN from day one). Getting AT&T on board is an important step for the LHN, but there’s still a lot work to be done in order to get the network onto what I would consider to be the most critical ones for its long-term survival: Comcast, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV. With each week that goes by during the football season, the leverage that ESPN has in negotiating with carriers diminishes. If ESPN can’t strike more deals by the time that the LHN airs its next football game, the chances of anything else occurring before next football season drop precipitously, which is where the long-term viability of the LHN starts truly coming into question.
My impression is that ESPN’s asking price for LHN is too high for the market to bear, but the problem is that the asking price is effectively what ESPN has to have in order to make only a minimal amount of profit (or even just to break even) after taking away all of the expenses of running the network. If ESPN lowered the asking price much further, then it would be locking in long-term losses that would send Mickey Mouse and his shareholders into a bloody rage. As a result, ESPN is likely going to have to go back to Texas to renegotiate its rights fees if these carriage disputes continue much further. While Texas could theoretically sit back and tell ESPN, “F**k you, pay me” (which is effectively what the Longhorn Network contract states), the LHN is still an extension of the program’s brand even if it technically doesn’t own the channel. The university ultimately doesn’t want irate alums and donors calling every week about why the LHN isn’t on their cable systems (as many of them actually mistkanely believe that the school owns the channel as opposed to ESPN), so it behooves the school to bend on rights payments if it can translate into greater carriage down the road. Plus, if you look at the linked LHN contract, the real potential financial windfall for Texas comes from when the LHN hits profitability targets and a lucrative revenue sharing arrangement kicks in. That windfall is realistically only possible if the LHN gets broad distribution across the State of Texas.
(2) BlogPoll Ballot
The clear lesson of the first week of the college football season is that Alabama is a holy terror of a scary team. It looks like Alabama-LSU in November will be yet another national championship elimination game that might not end up being an elimination game.
Note that I got onto this week’s BlogPoll “Straight Bangin’ Award” list for those biased against their favorite schools since there were actually some poor souls out there that put Illinois on their ballots.
(3) College Football Parlay Picks (odds from Yahoo! and home teams in CAPS)
Purdue (+14.5) over NOTRE DAME – The Boilermakers are going to sneak up on some teams this year.
Nebraska (-5) over UCLA – I have a feeling that enough Husker fans are going to head out to Pasadena to make this a fairly hospitable atmosphere for the road team.
Illinois (+4) over ARIZONA STATE – The Illini offense (particularly the offensive line) was pretty shaky last week, but the defense is impressive and can keep this game close.
(4) NFL Parlay Picks (odds from Yahoo! and home teams in CAPS)
Bills (+2.5) over JETS – Unfortunately, I think the Tebow Starter Watch is going to begin immediately.
PACKERS (-4.5) over 49ers – There’s a lot of interesting analysis out there suggesting that the 49ers are going to come back to Earth this season and I’m starting to buy it. As a Bears fan, I have seen the great defense/untrustworthy quarterback combo rear its head for most of my lifetime and can easily see a drop off for the 49ers similar to what Chicago experienced from 2001 to 2002 and 2006 to 2007.
Colts (+9.5) over BEARS – I’m not that concerned that the Bears are going to lose this game outright, but as long as the team’s offensive line has more holes than the Soldier Field sod, there are going to be a lot of close calls.
(5) Classic Music Video of the Week: “Separate Ways” by Journey
Back in 2005, my Chicago White Sox adopted “Don’t Stop Believin'” as a corny theme song for the season and rode all the way to a World Series Championship (the first that either Chicago baseball franchise had seen since 1917). Journey front man and self-described San Francisco Giants fan Steve Perry had enough time on his hands to show up to both the White Sox World Series clincher in Houston and the team’s ticker tape parade despite having no previous connection to the team.
“Don’t Stop Believin'” has enjoyed a fairly stunning renaissance since that time that was supercharged by its prominence in the closing moment in The Sopranos finale* and then the pilot episode of the shrill Glee. It is now the most downloaded song of all time and has been ensconced in the top 100 list on iTunes every week for several years (which is remarkable for a 30 year old song).
(* If you haven’t already spent a couple of hours going through the legendary “Definitive Explanation” and second-by-second analysis of the final scene of The Sopranos, it’s well worth the time.)
One would think that this would be Journey’s greatest achievement, but the reality is that it’s not even close. Please see the following:
It always slays me that Steve Perry and company are dead serious in this video. There’s not a hint of irony or self-deprecation (or self-awareness, for that matter). This is nothing less than the Citizen Kane of all music videos (or Vertigo, if you prefer).
Enjoy a wall-to-wall football weekend!