Doc Saturday has a piece on the potential uncomfortable tension between ESPN's recent purchase of the BCS's television rights and the kind of pressure FoxSports.com's writers faced when their network was busy banana-raping the televised sport of college football. It's a legitimate concern, and let's share a personal story about the fun of working for a scavenging commodity like a media network that makes its bacon by slicing hunks of it off the side of sponsorpigs.
While at the Sporting News, we wrote a piece mentioning in our ever-so-delicate way that no one would attend the ACC Championship Game, because no one ever did, and because it was in Jacksonville in December. We may have also accused John Swofford of wire fraud. Frankly, given the amount and poor street quality of streebo we were smoking, there's no telling what we said. (It's the stuff with PCP that will really do that to you.)
Anyway, the biggest sponsor of the then-fledgling online edition of Sporting News was...the ACC Championship game, and the piece was changed by an editor. So when Fiutak says the pressure is real, it is, even from someone as relatively juiceless as the ACC.
What may be the real tension here, though, is between ESPN the broadcast partner and ESPN the Sticky Eyeball Magnet. The BCS's approach will be to bluster, and blather on and on and flood their PR pool, because that's what they've done thus far and will keep doing. It's not lying, it's bullshit, and there's a difference. Liars recognize the value of an absolute truth they are working against, while bullshitters don't even acknowledge that.
ESPN, meanwhile, loves both to sell both a product and its wrapping. They remain quite good at it. Part of this is discussion, something they have traditionally let go a long, long way unless it concerns an employee of the network. They were no less lazy or active than other media on baseball and steroids, and seem all too happy to play the part of being the NBA's TMZ.com. The only league seemingly in control of their own coverage on ESPN would be the NFL, and that seems less an editorial decision and more one of chummy cultural fraternity amidst NFL types.*
The BCS will complain, but ESPN's college football has been pretty frank and allowed meta-commentary on their coverage. Chris Fowler was allowed to openly admit they were covering USC/Nebraska over Florida/Tennessee in 2007, pro-playoff/ anti-BCS commentary has been a staple of the network's coverage, and announcers on the network have made open and cheeky references to the conflicts in covering games provided by other networks. it has not been a corporate totalitarian North Korea in this respect, both because of this openness, and because they've lacked kickass posters.
The better comparison has been China, where you can talk a little, but not a lot unless you like gulag diets and summers in sunny, warm Qinghai province. If it allows for SPORTS SHOUTING without ruffling the BCS too much, they will allow it. especially since it will allow both the BCS and ESPN to call attention to themselves for their own purposes. If not, then it's to Mao's Summer Camp for the discussion, and you all get pro-BCS gruel until behavior improves.
*We're convinced this is why Robert Smith works college football, since he's loose cannon-ish and will say critical things about the NFL.