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Buckeyes fans upset over snub



Published: Wed, October 25, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



What are the five least-liked letters in Ohio?

Try E-S-P-N-U.

Contrary to popular opinion, the world did not come to an end on Saturday as predicted when the Ohio State-Indiana football game was televised by ESPNU. Aliens did not land spaceships on the Columbus campus' famous Oval and dinosaurs did not climb out of Mirror Lake and resume rule of the Earth.

When Buckeyes fans found out that ESPN was keeping the number-one team in the land for its least-viewed (and available) channel, they were -- to say the least -- not happy.

They called in complaints to WYTV Channel 33, which is sad because the station tried to purchase the rights to the game and were rebuffed by "America's Sports Leader."

They called in complaints to The Vindicator, probably because we published a story saying how the game would be televised on a channel that most cable-TV systems don't offer.

Some called their cable companies, which is exactly what ESPN wants. If enough angry subscribers call, cable executives might rethink their decision to not carry ESPN's fifth channel.

One reader I spoke with was so upset that he insisted that he was going to call the Federal Communications Commission to straighten out this mess.

No guaranteesin TV schedule

Good luck. The Constitution of the United States does not guarantee that every Ohio State football game be available to every cable-TV subscriber who wants to see it.

Cable companies have the right to pick which channels they want to show. Subscribers have the right to decide which channels they want to pay for each month. That's the beauty of free enterprise.

Another reader told me how he remembers seeing on television every game Archie Griffin played for the Buckeyes.

Not exactly. Back in the Dark Ages of my youth, college teams were allowed about one televised appearance per fall. And Archie Griffin didn't switch teams every week.

For ESPN, keeping marquee teams off that channels most people get is a risk. It's hard to generate top ratings on a cable channel that few see.

But the strategy makes sense. If ESPN can deprive Ohio State fans (and in other weeks fans of Michigan, Southern Cal, West Virginia and Louisville) of seeing their team, ESPNU soon might become a cable staple.

Today's troubling question -- will ESPNU do it again before Nov. 18? If there are no restrictions on how many times ESPNU can grab college football's best teams, it should surprise no one if the fledgling channel takes another Buckeyes game in November.

Baseball viewers diminishing

Remember when Major League Baseball was more popular than "Dancing With the Stars?"

There once was a time when postseason baseball games were must-see TV. Judging from recent television ratings, viewers prefer "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI" to baseball's most dramatic games.

How sad for those of us who grew up relishing the postseason.

Thanks FOX, the network that can't start a game at the appointed hour because it has to hype itself again (and again and again) with the endless "Chevy Pregame Show."

With games ending well past 11 p.m. on the East Coast, it's no wonder so few baseball fans see the final out. It's no wonder that FOX gave back half of its postseason rights starting next fall. The ratings have tumbled so much that FOX can actually do as well with its normal lineup.

Baseball officials led by Commissioner Bud Selig are putting on a brave face, suggesting the television numbers are fine. (Baseball executives also believe no professional baseball players use Human Growth Hormone.)

The numbers indicate that baseball is following the trail blazed by hockey, a sport once considered among America's Top Four and now has cult status. Auto racing, golf and major college sports have surpassed the NHL in interest.

Tom Williams is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at williams@vindy.com.




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