Saturday night, fellow ATVSer zrau and I were driving back from Houston and we were just talking, shooting the shit. Eventually we got around to talking about the College World Series and we reached a mutual agreement on one thing: it’s hard to watch the College World Series.
It’s not just hard to watch when LSU is in it, it’s hard to watch as a whole because of how ESPN treats the whole affair.
Before I rip into them, let me award some praise to ESPN: in the past few years alone the worldwide leader has done a lot for college baseball, mostly via ESPN3, ESPNU and the SEC Network. They have committed the resources to make the sport more accessible to the true fans and I commend them for that.
But for the most part they shipped the aluminum bats to those wards and kept them there for the entire season, occasionally airing a game on ESPN2, but only on Sundays.
But once the postseason rolls around, ESPN starts calling up more games to air on the main channels with a few games on the proper mothership. And hey, I can’t hate the game they’re playing. Shell out a relatively niche sport to your extended stations and then cash in on the big finale. That’s what ESPN does with college hockey as well. It makes sense from their perspective.
But what I draw issue with is how they present it. Zach’s exact words were “grown-up Little League World Series”, which is a roundabout way of saying “watered down MLB”. This year I’ve noticed that they’ve brought back This Town and that’s fine because true college baseball fans associate that song with Omaha and the sport in general anyway. But everything else just seems like lip service to the sport, from having the Baseball Tonight guys there calling games to playing Take Me Out To The Ballgame over the lineups. Guys like Kyle Peterson know their college baseball and deserve to be in the booth, but I’d love to ask each of the others to name eight teams in the NCAA tournament that didn’t make Omaha this year. I seriously doubt they would be able to do that.
It’s frustrating because for as little attention they give it, ESPN really does do a great job with College Baseball coverage and that isn’t an accident. By hiring people who genuinely know college baseball and leaving it alone to their own devices, ESPN has created something that the fans of the sport genuinely enjoy.
But what they don’t enjoy is when ESPN turns the grandest stage in the sport into basically a week-long exhibition to watch “the MLB’s future stars”, as an ESPN notification I got this weekend described it. Between ESPN using the end of the tournament for basically a field trip for Baseball Tonight and the transition from Roseblatt Stadium to a relatively lifeless (if not otherwise gorgeous) TD Ameritade, all the emotion has been sapped from the College World Series. And as somebody who loves college baseball and wants to see the sport grow, that sucks.
Also, Eduardo Perez sounds like he has marbles stuck in his throat.