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Playing by the television clock

I attended the past two mega Georgia Bulldog games in Athens and as usual came away with many thoughts, memories and opinions. There was the ecstasy of the Dogs 45-16 victory over LSU and the frustration of their 19-14 loss to Tennessee. Both of those games will be talked about until, well, at least Saturday.

Out of all the tidbits that will stick with me from these two games, the things that most made an impression on me were the television timeouts. In the euphoria of the romp over the Tigers and the disgust I felt over the loss to the Volunteers, the marathon delays in the action so CBS Television could pay their bills grabbed at me the most.

I've been to countless televised college football games, mostly involving UGA, but in these two contests CBS must have been raising funds to pay Dan Rather's severance, or the national debt, whichever is greater. The TV official in the red hat had more time of possession than either of the teams in both of these games. I literally caught myself watching for this red beanie more so than the football.

It's great that Georgia and other SEC schools have these multi-million dollar television contracts so people across America can see their teams play. It aids in recruiting, publicity for the schools and to pay for all the vital non-revenue sports like equestrian and crew. In other words, it helps keep Title IX happy. These are all huge advantages, but it is brutal on the fans in attendance and at times the teams.

The aggravation starts with what is called the 10-day rule. Networks are allowed to wait until 10 days before the playing date to decide if they'll televise a game and determine the starting time. If TV says four o'clock, the schools ask a.m. or p.m. The networks have ironclad control over kickoff times.

This isn't so bad on home games, but when you're trying to plan the logistics of traveling to a road game in Kentucky, Mississippi or Arkansas it would be nice to have a little more notice. Each network is also given a couple of chances each season to delay their choices until five days before the scheduled playing date.

ESPN has recently created a slate of Thursday night games in the ACC and a few other conferences out west. Many weeks you can even find a game on Wednesday nights. I'm sure this means time off work for many fans and a missed night of studying for the students. I'm confident though, that if UGA played on a weeknight, Ashley would miss the game to study. Yeah, right.

What kills me the most during the game is when the teams break from their sidelines and line up to run a play with the fans in an uproar of anticipation. This tension is doused by the referee standing over the ball staring down the guy in the red cap, waiting for his permission to put the ball in play. The master in the red cap stands there with his arms folded, frozen in time, oblivious to all except the producer in his headset.

The fans meanwhile are up and down in our seats like a jack-in-the-box. When is TV going to let us see the action that we have paid good money to watch live and in person? At least our friends and relatives at home get plenty of time for trips to the fridge and privy.

The "lowly" Jefferson-Pilot network will televise Saturday's Georgia-Vanderbilt game at 12:30 on Channel 12. They don't have any Dan Rathers so they'll be racing the clock to get off the air. You guessed it. CBS will be waiting with baited breath for the 3:30 time slot. JP dare not cost CBS commercial minutes from the impending Arkansas-Auburn game. The nation, and the fans in Auburn, will be waiting, and waiting, and waiting.



Web posted on Thursday, October 14, 2004


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