King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

BCS fever: Nation thrills as USC improves to .9460 on a computer somewhere. Plus: If Bryant Gumbel's talking, is this the Macy's parade?

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The shouts came from kids parked in front of computer monitors all over this fine land Sunday night. “Hey, Ma, come see! USC has taken the lead over Michigan, .9460 to .9216!”

The wonder and majesty of the BCS.

If you can’t get excited about the Trojans increasing their lead over the Wolverines in the Harris poll by 76 points from 2,621-2,600 to 2,711-2,614 and in the USA Today poll by 30 points from 1,444-1428 to 1,491-1,445, while also zooming past Michigan in the computer ranking, turning a .960-.920 deficit into a .940-.930 lead, well, my friend, you have no pulse.

We will now have about a month’s worth of very boring arguments about whether Michigan or USC should be in the NCAA Championship Game on Jan. 8.

Unless USC loses Saturday to UCLA, in which case Florida would get a chance to get into the argument, provided it beats Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game and this guy named Larry in Davenport, Iowa, fills at least two inside straights at his weekly poker game at T-Bone’s house.

The BCS is really complicated. That’s what makes it so exciting!

But listen, the BCS has an impossible job to do. It has to look at a half-dozen or so teams and figure out which are the very very superduper bestest of the best two. Doesn’t sound so tough but here’s the catch: Those teams almost never play each other!

If only there were some way to get these teams together. If only we could think of some way to get, say, Ohio State onto a field with two or three of these top teams, instead of just one. If only there were some way for a team like Boise State, which has gone undefeated against a schedule filled with the likes of Sacramento State and Idaho, to prove it belongs in a championship game.

Sure, Boise State hasn’t played a single ranked opponent, although the Broncos did abuse Oregon State, who beat USC, the Broncos clubbing the Beavers to the tune of four touchdowns. But I don’t recall any great clamor in Columbus for Ohio State to hurry up and get Boise State on the schedule.

It wouldn’t have been possible. The Buckeyes have a reputation to uphold as the scourge of the Mid-American Conference. They spent one-sixth of their season pounding Bowling Green and Northern Illinois.



If only there were some way to force the big-conference suzerains to play a team that emerges from the game’s provinces. I wish I could think of a way we could say to Boise State, “OK, Boise State, we can’t put you in the title game when all you’ve done is beat up on the Wyomings and Louisiana Techs of the world, but if you can win, oh, let’s say, two games against top teams, we’ll give you a shot at all the marbles.”

Think. Think. Think think think. Haven’t thought of anything, have you?

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First NFL Network game changes universe as we know it [PERMALINK]

The NFL Network made its debut as a game broadcaster Thursday night with the first-ever prime-time Thanksgiving game. The NFL would have you believe it was a debut on par with Neil Armstrong bouncing around on the moon, but it was really just another football game. Chiefs beat the Broncos.

NFL Network will carry a game each of the next four Thursdays, plus the last three Saturday nights of the season. And while this week’s Baltimore at Cincinnati game is intriguing given the Bengals’ rebound effort against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, the rest of the slate carries the distinctive whiff of Alpo.

I’m having a little trouble getting behind the widespread media outrage over the scarcity of the NFL Network, which is available to only about a third of all households, less than half the coverage of ESPN, while the league scrimmages with cable companies over carriage fees.

I’m not sure I caught the news that seeing every NFL game had become an inalienable right. There are as many as a dozen games every week that NFL fans can’t see unless they get the satellite package, and they don’t get to choose which four or five they do see.

It stinks that NFL teams strong-arm cities, counties and states for public financing for their stadiums, and then the NFL doesn’t let some of those fleeced fans see the team’s games. When a team plays on cable, the game has to be on over-the-air TV in the home market, but if you’re more than 75 miles away, you’re probably not in the home market. So, tough luck for Packers fans in Madison, to use the example always cited.

That stinks, all right, but it’s the taxpayer swindle part that stinks, not the football game on cable part.

As for the broadcast itself, you weren’t counting on the NFL to be innovative in its presentation of a football game, were you? Good.

You had your score bug, your yellow line, your blimp shots, your “wired” player going, “Come on, baby!” You had your four guys in expensive suits sitting on director’s chairs and pontificating before the game. I think they were “Neon” Deion Jackson, Howie “The Bus” Mariucci, Terry Marino and Bob “J.B.” Eisen.

You want innovation? The halftime entertainment was John Fogerty. Whoa, 23 skiddoo. The NFL Network played it so safe it borrowed the halftime entertainer from one of the afternoon games, and it was a guy who was old news the first time the league tried playing on Thursday nights.

Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth handled the announcing duties. Collinsworth is one of the best in the business. Gumbel, who has his things he’s good at, like his excellent HBO show, is going to take some getting used to. As he was doing his pregame standup, I couldn’t stop thinking I was about to see the Macy’s parade, not a football game.

Gumbel seemed rusty on play-by-play, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to abide that high voice, which doesn’t grate as much in other contexts. But I’ll give him a few weeks to get it together.

Let me know if he sounds good on that big Cleveland-Pittsburgh game Dec. 7. I’ll be exercising one of my inalienable rights that night.

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