Hoodwinked

Rob James sounds off on the debacle that is the mtn. distribution negotiations. After four games, the vast majority of BYU fans not on the Wasatch front missed BYU's two victories. Disgruntled fans are calling for heads to roll over what they feel is a poorly executed deal that is alienating them from their team.

"Fans of large schools no longer have to wait for that single game on broadcast or cable," said Brian Bedol, chief executive of CSTV. "For millions of fans of smaller schools, they will have access to live sports for the first time no matter where they live."

The Mountain West was so eager to abandon their insipid, pathetic deal with ESPN, that when CSTV came along with a life-size vision of football on Saturday, an 80 million dollar contract, games televised to the nation on the conference's own network, and free pizza, it was a no-brainer. What more could you ask for!! If you're the conference, of course you're gonna say yes! Give me some of that cake, and I'd like to eat it too!

That's the attitude Craig Thompson had back on July 17th when he introduced the plan. I was worried, even though he used words like ecstatic and thrilled, because his demeanor was more apprehensive and anxious. He was careful with his language, but not careful enough. It was almost as though he wanted it all to be true and to work out.

Commissioner Thompson told how he had been having "hourly conversations, numerous times daily during the last week to 10 days and was very pleased to announce we have finalized deals for distribution of both CSTV and the mtn. network. We will have carriage of both networks starting September 1st."

He went on to say, "We have reached distribution deals, but we are bound not to discuss the details of the deal"

Whoa – hold on! Red Flag. What do you mean "bound not to discuss details?" It should have been a red flag to everyone.

He tried to be reassuring: "I assure you, I promise our commitment is to give you answers to all your questions about the deal in the next couple days, certainly by the end of the month. But at this point we are just thrilled to announce that we have reached distribution deals for CSTV and mtn."

Hmm… Assurance? Promise? Commitment? Is it, the next couple days or end of the month?

It ended up being neither, unless the answer was…"Um, we still don't know."

His sentiment continued: "We're right on course for our September launch. We're thrilled to death to be the first and only conference to have its own regional network on September 1st."

Using further auspicious drivel: "We're excited that we will get the media exposure that is necessary to dispatch the business of a Division I-A football conference."

We're really separating the pretenders the contenders now, aren't we Commissioner?

Bragging about the deal further, our leader commented further: "The phenomenal part is that I'm standing here before you, six weeks out, telling you that we have guaranteed coverage on the mtn. We're way ahead of the curve with this deal."

An inquisitive voice came representing the Denver Post:

"You said we have half of the Mountain West markets with guaranteed distribution, do you expect to have coverage in ALL the mountain west markets by September 1 st. "

Craig Thompson proceeds to place his foot in his mouth:

"Yes"

The Denver Post inquiries further:

"Do we have Comcast, Cox, and satellite?"

In an effort to minimize the thorny deal, we were again hoodwinked with a minimizing answer:

"I not at liberty to say that. There is some regulatory "t" crossing to be done. The Mtn and CSTV will be carried in YOUR region. In the next 3-5 days, and at a drop dead date of July 30th, we'll be able to say definitively you will be able to see programming in your area."

The commissioner doth promise too much, methinks.

Finally, another journalist trying to get a firm understanding for its viewers presents at that time what was assumed to be a worst case scenario for his west coast and Las Vegas viewers:

"So lets assume the worst case scenario, what would you tell viewers if it came Sept 1st and they didn't have access to programming? "

Commissioner Thompson gets bolder with his deluded responses:

"I would say, come September 1st YOU WILL be watching CSTV and the mtn."

Hmm….I'm starting to see where all the optimism from athletic directors, coaches, media, and fans came from: the top.

Thompson felt too much pressure in the time leading up to the MWC Football Media Days. He had to come across as having a solid deal. He did then to at his own detriment two months later.

His guarded behavior at the pulpit that day makes more sense, as we realize he was walking a rickety bridge that held no safe tread. He was chalked the game up as a W before it was even played. Now he has no where to hide. Yet somehow this is still nobody's fault.

The edict I get now from the athletic department and commissioners office is that I, as a fan, must count myself among the blades of grass that must make a difference in this movement. I, in the shadow of the "Fans First" philosophy as publicized by the MWC, must make calls to my local Cable and Satellite companies if I am to have a chance at being able to view Mountain West sports in my area. I thought this was a deal for the fans, not a deal sealed by the fans.

Probably 40 calls later, I am notified by the DirecTV operator, that I need not explain my predicament again, it is fully documented "in my file." Embarrassed, I hang up.

So who's fault is it now? Every thing is hush-hush. Apparently CSTV and the two major satellite companies are in discussions…Daily? Hourly? Should I picture wrinkled suits and ruffled haired men sitting around a large table with platters of half-eaten donuts and cups of cold java? Are they being constantly update with new stats about the subscribers wants and wishes?

Here's the latest stats from broadcastingcable.com: the mtn wants .75 cents per sub – nearly as much as the Disney channel, the same price asked for by the NFL.

Hmm… I wonder what this is all about? Could it be…. Money?$?.

I can't watch BYU on my computer or my HD TV. I can't even watch a replay on BYU TV. I'm relegated to fuzzy highlights in a 2-inch window on my computer screen courtesy of youtube.com.

This fiasco has compelled me to look in a different direction. I'm not very close to BYU campus. No cable companies in my city carry the mtn. Satellite doesn't carry the mtn. Comcast and CSTV won't allow the games to be tape delayed on BYUTV national programming. I've spent too many hours on the phone already trying to convince those that don't care about how much getting the mtn on Satellite would mean to me…

I think I'm ready for a change. My eyes have been opened. I realized I'm not a great father on Saturdays. I don't take great care of my lawn. I'm not a good gardener. My garage is to dirty. I never study for gospel doctrine class. I spend a lot of time reading the newspapers and internet. I give too much money to the university and book store.

I'm asked to be fully invested in the team, but I can't see them play. I'll go to a game now and then, but the bummer is that I can't come home and watch the game again. (One of my favorite things to do.) I don't want to worry about how many recruits they'll lose over this. I want to be like my backyard neighbor, Sam.

"Hi Sam."

"Hi Rob"

"You watch the game today, Sam?"

"No, took the boys up to the cabin," he says.

"Oh, well, you didn't miss anything, they lost," I whine.

"Oooo, sorry to hear that," he says trying to sound empathetic.

"Yea, BYU beat-em in every way but the score…" I say.

"Well that's to bad, will I see you tomorrow?" Sam asks.

"Yeah, I'll be there."

It's like I told my wife recently, I'm going to "pop" or "blow" something. This isn't worth it—to me or my family. I just want the disappointment to stop, and the only way to do that is to turn down the care button. I don't want to care as much any more.

I can't be fully invested any more. It's too close to idol worship, and it stresses me and my family. I don't want the future of BYU sports to depend on how many times I call and threaten DirecTV. I like my DirecTV. They've been great to me for over 6 years.

I'm thinking snowmobiles will be something better to spend money and time on now. It's good winter gig, I can spend lots of money on it. It will give me quality time with the kids, and is far less stressful.

I'll always love BYU. I hope I make it to some bowl games, but I'm ready for some great free time now.

Quotes from Brian Bedol came from a USA Today article by Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press, published on August 31st, 2006 and found at the following link:

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2006-08-31-cbs-sports-online_x.htm?csp=34

Quotes from Craig Thompson came from his comments at the 2006 MWC Football Media Blitz. Links to video recordings of his comments can be found at:

http://themwc.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/06-media-day.html

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