Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Somebody Else Noticed

Apparently I’m not the only one who’s noticed the concerted effort by ESPN to degrade the NFL and pump up the AFL. Peter King in MMQB makes this interesting statement:
i. I issue this disclaimer before I write the following words: NBC employs me. But the NBC Sunday schedule kills ESPN's Monday slate. Just kills it. Someone told me Michael Wilbon, on Pardon the Interruption the other day, asked MNF's Tony Kornheiser how he felt to have gotten the JV schedule. In the first 10 weeks of the season -- when the games cannot change, before the Week-11 start of flex-scheduling for NBC -- ESPN has 11 games, NBC 10. Of ESPN's 11 games, none contain matchups of two playoff teams from 2006. Of NBC's 10 games, eight are matchups of two 2006 playoff teams.
I sure hope ESPN lets us know how antagonizing their biggest supplier goes.

Honestly, ESPN’s behavior baffles me. They pay hundreds of millions for the Monday night broadcast rights, purchase part of the AFL, then begin bad-mouthing the NFL in print and on TV while pumping up the AFL every chance they get. Left hand, please phone the right hand.

Perhaps they’re such evil geniuses that they are going to get the marquee Monday-night NFL matchup to suck so that its ratings tank, thus degrading the NFL and making it easier for the AFL to move to fall and challenge the NFL directly, which would increase the value of their investment. Maybe ESPN hopes that the NFL destroys the quality of the Monday-night product so that ESPN can renegotiate the Monday night rights cheaper.

Or maybe ESPN is drunk on its own power and doesn’t realize that it’s destroying its sports-information monopoly. Personally, I vote for the latter, because assuming that giant corporations have malicious foresight is a lot like assuming that every mark in a cornfield was made by aliens: it could be true, but it probably isn’t.

(Editor’s Disclaimer: Yes, I know that a few columns ago I ripped Jason Cole for predicting the good games in 2007, and that logic applies here as well. But it sure does look like the NFL tried its best to rig the early-season schedule against ESPN and tried its best to help NBC until flex-scheduling starts. After all, it’s not like the NFL knows which teams will be good, either.)