Saturday, November 7, 2009

The end of my ESPNU and DirectTV nightmares

With all apologies to LeMoyne, the college basketball season tips off Monday with games that count. But if it weren’t for Isaah Thomas, who wanted his Florida International team to be blown out by Ohio St. instead of North Carolina, there wouldn’t be much intrigue. These games are officially part of the 2K Sports Coaches vs Cancer Classic, but have no bearing on the tournament bracket.

(It makes you wonder why they even play these games this early if the semifinalists are already set? Kansas plays in a tournament where it hosts three cupcakes and plays Memphis, but it actually chooses to play the cupcakes AFTER the Memphis game.)

Anyhow, to make matters worse, Monday’s games are carried on ESPNU and the Big Ten Network, which have traditionally been the most frustrating networks for national college basketball fans. ESPNU always seems to be on some tiered service where you pay $10 to see your team play twice, and Big Ten Network is great if you live somewhere between Minneapolis and Pittsburgh, but not so great otherwise.

But a funny thing has been changing over the past year. According to the Washington Times, both networks are achieving more household penetration. In the past year,
-The Big Ten Network has added 40 million homes
-ESPNU added 46 million homes
-and even CBS College Sports has added 30 million homes
(Now if only there was a game I wanted to see on CBS College Sports.) So perhaps the days of complaining about the ESPNU games are over. Well, at least for the time being.

DirectTV, RCN, Cox, Verizon FIOS

My cable provider has changed dramatically this summer. Longtime readers of the blog know some details of my saga. When I moved to DC, my apartment had RCN as its cable provider. And at that time RCN was in bankruptcy court and was not allowed to sell any of the sports packages. That meant I literally could not get the ESPN Full Court package with cable.

At that time, I decided to sign up with DirectTV. The “free installation” took 6 tries and $500. It was best summed up on the first attempt at installation where the guy showed up, told us he didn’t feel like working that day, and left.

Despite yearly service interruptions due to the weather or some sort of government program to knock out satellite dishes in DC, I endured with DirectTV for the NFL package. That changed in March. On the eve of Championship Week, our dish went out again. DirectTV told me they couldn’t get someone out until April, and I said goodbye.

I was back to RCN. In an odd twist, RCN now carried ESPNU on its primary tier. But I didn’t get the Big Ten Network, so I was stuck watching the Big Ten tournament games at a sports bar on a tiny TV. Sigh.

Meanwhile, the exercise room in my apartment also began to irritate me. They took out their standard definition TVs that were nicely spaced throughout the treadmills and replaced them with two giant flat screen TVs on the other end of the room. That would have been fine, except every time I went down to the exercise room people were emphatic that the TVs had to be on Fox News or MSNBC or something similar. Arggh. Suffice to say, I exercise better with sports than politics.

This summer we decided to move, and last month we did. This explains why I posted approximately three times this summer. Sadly, I did not choose my new location based on cable providers. (Where are my priorities?) And unlike the frequently available Comcast, my new cable provider Cox, did not offer the Big Ten Network.

But I lucked into another option. My new location offered Verizon Fios and I signed up. And Verizon Fios seems to have even more sports than DirectTV. They have ESPNU, Big Ten Network, CBS College Sports, and Versus on the main tier. They have all four of the major sports network stations for free (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL). Heck, they even have the Yankees’ YES network on the primary tier despite the fact that this is the DC area and not the New York area. I’m still presuming something is going to go wrong, but at least for the moment, my nightmare of trying to see 50 Gopher and Illini games at the sports bar is averted.


Are you kidding me? Tonight I put it on CBS College Sports to see if 1-loss Houston could remain in the hunt to be annoyed at undefeated TCU and Boise St. Houston trailed Tulsa 45-37 late in the 4th quarter. Houston drove the length of the field and scored a TD to make it 45-43. But on the 2 point conversion, the QB was sacked and it looked like Tulsa would hold on.

But not so fast. With 21 seconds left Houston recovered the onside kick. Then Houston proceeded to complete a couple of passes and send on a freshman kicker for a 51 yard field goal try with 3 seconds left. The kick was so high I almost thought it was blocked. But it was long enough, it was straight enough, and it was good. Houston wins 46-45. Awesome. And I will no longer dismiss the CBS College Sports Network. At least for a month.