Friday, September 12, 2014

2014 Oregon Ducks Football, Game Three: Set Your Alarm Clock!

A few years ago on a different website named after primates, I wrote about how horrible the Pac-10's teevee contract was after a game involving undefeated and 2nd-ranked Oregon originally wasn't allowed to be broadcast live in Eugene (you know, where the university is located) because of exclusive broadcast “windows” the conference had negotiated with the ABC/ESPN conglomerate. Since then, the conference has expanded by two, and gotten their own TV network in order to show all their football games live to at least the area where the home university is located (Oregon and Oregon State fans are guaranteed to see Ducks and Beavs, Arizona gets Sun Devils and Wildcats, etc and so on).

But what is the good part about having your own network when you have football teams playing at bizarro, unheard-of times? The game between #3 Oregon and Wyoming on Saturday on the Pac-12 Network will kick off at 11 in the morning. The game is not in Cheyenne, where the game would start at noon Mountain time, but at Autzen Stadium, the home of the Ducks. This is the reward they get for being a top five team? Now, I understand that the start time for this game was determined months ago. But by then, the Ducks were already known to be a top-five preseason team, and even if they had lost to Michigan State last weekend, they were guaranteed to still be ranked in the top 15. And yet they have to start a football game before Rennie's Landing stops serving breakfast.

For the players and coaches, this shouldn't matter much. For several years the Ducks have their regular practices from 9 to 11 am. Starting a game that early isn't an issue for them. It is an issue for the fans, and the exact opposite scenario of a problem Oregon tailgaters have had since the team became a national power. Fans coming from Portland and Medford and all over Oregon have complained that the late start times have made it difficult for them to see their team. For if a game starts at 7:30 pm, then they have to decide whether they're going to drive back 130 miles or more after watching a four hour game and then spending 90- minutes getting through post-game traffic- so they're not even getting on the road until 12:30 or one in the morning- or trying to book a room in a university town that rarely has any vacancies on gameday weekend anyhow. So they would end up driving an hour north or south anyway to get to a hotel in Salem or Roseburg, and if you've already driven an hour towards your house and you have an hour and a half to go, why not keep going? But that means not getting home till 3 ayem, and that's just asking for trouble.

This weekend, the fans coming from Medford or Portland and all over Oregon have had to decide, for an 11 am kickoff, whether they're going to get up around the time they get home from those late kickoffs, or if they're going to try and come into town the night before. Either way, a horrible start time, and the earliest I can recall a Duck game ever kicking off at Autzen. Even if you live in Eugene or Springfield, you've got to get going before you usually get up to go to work! (Provided you work a regular 9 to 5. Of course you don't drink before you go to work. I assume.) That the game is against an atrocious Wyoming team almost guarantees a half-empty stadium at kickoff. That seats are going on StubHub for $25 should tell you something about the fan interest in going to this one. (Actual sentence about the game: If the Ducks don't lead by 40 at some point, something's gone horribly wrong.)

Not to say that 11 am kickoffs don't happen- my alma mater, Kansas, regularly has 11 am start times. But we're one of the worst football teams around, and we are happy to be on teevee, period. The Ducks deserve better. The Pac-12 deserves better. But to get a national audience (an 11 am kickoff in Oregon is a 2pm kickoff in New York), I suppose you have to do what you have to do. It would help, however, if the people on the east coast could actually get the Pac-12 Network. But that's a completely different thing entirely. I suppose Duck fans who can't get to the game should be glad they even have a chance to see it while they're eating omelets at Rennie's. 
Don't forget the Irish Coffee.
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