ESPN Sucks And Other Lessons From The Holiday Bowl

It can't be said enough and it bears repeating over and over again. ESPN's coverage of the Holiday Bowl sucked root. It was one of the worst examples of sports broadcasting that's been seen in half a decade, and I'm a regular viewer of Fox Sports Northwest.

If you had the misfortune of tuning into ESPN at 7 p.m. to watch the game then you know what happened. Rather than allowing West Coast viewers to cut away to a game that has local relevance, we were treated instead to an extra half-hour of the Music City/Elvis Velvet Painting Bowl.

Although it was mildly entertaining to watch the Derek Tooley-led Tennessee Volunteers completely implode as the clock ticked down, there was no reason why it should have preempted a full half-quarter of the Holiday Bowl, making us miss a forced fumble/recovery by Huskies linebacker Victor Aiyewa which resulted in a Chris Polk touchdown.

Viewers were helpfully informed to switchover to ESPN3, ESPNU or ESPN8 "The Ocho" or whatever, completely screwing over basic cable subscribers and forcing others to thumb through six hundred channels looking for a station that normally airs the Afghanistan Buzkashi League on tape delay. You can still hear the collective screams of thousands of Dawg fans on cyberspace as they updated their Facebook accounts to vent their rage over their inability to watch.

The worse was yet to come when a couple minutes later the game was preempted again to show garbage time in a blowout loss by the University of Connecticut Huskies women's basketball team. Outside of Connecticut, nobody gives a damn about UConn basketball. Particularly a regular season non-conference game against Stanford which was essentially meaningless.

Don't get me wrong. We in Seattle love our women basketball players and it's pretty neat that the Storm have already won two WNBA championships. Personally I've done more than my fair share of covering women's athletics and I appreciate the amount of teamwork displayed.

But UConn's 90-game win streak being snapped doesn't warrant OJ Simpson white Ford Bronco-style breaking coverage on every single ESPN station. Not when the game had devolved to desperation fouls, cut-aways to Condoleeza Rice and free-throw shooters who missed half their shots. And not when Sportscenter is going to be running non-stop UConn's-Streak-Is-Broken stories for the next the next 24-hours. Just like it's been doing for the past two weeks.

None of this comes as a surprise, since the quality of ESPN has deteriorated markedly over the past several years and now basically fills its air time by gangbanging tabloid stories about Tiger Woods, Lebron James, Michael Vick and Alex Rodgriguez to death.

The Washington Huskies vindicating 19-7 win over the 17th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers was a much needed shot in the arm for a program that has gone nearly a decade without a bowl appearance and two years from a humiliating 0-12 season.

The reason for yesterday's win can be attributed to the coaching of Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt. It might be overstating it to say the Huskies defense hasn't looked this good since Steve Emtmen was roaming the gridiron in the early '90s. But since the D has been a liability throughout most of the season it was great to see the squad pulling itself together in its last four games.

The Huskers were held to 189 total yards thanks to Washington's front seven mauling Nebraska's offensive line, stuffing their running game and forcing their quarterbacks into third and longs. Nebraska only converted 4-of-14 on third down.

Although the game was the swan song for senior quarterback Jake Locker and his best audition for the NFL, Dawg fans might want to tip their caps first to senior linebacker Mason Foster who improved his draft stock and has been one of the few bright spots on defense this season. About the only player who wanted the game more than Foster was running back Chris Polk, who gashed Nebraska for 177 yards.

Speaking of Locker, this was another perfectly perplexing performance from the pride of Ferndale High School. He did not put up flashy passing numbers, although it was nice to see Coach Steve Sarkisian relent a little and finally design some running plays to take advantage of Locker's natural athleticism. We would have liked to have seen more of that this season. But just as soon as you make that wish, Locker gets himself knocked out for a series of downs in the first quarter trying to dive to gain a first down.

Who knows how his style of play is going to translate to the National Football League when he gets drafted either in the first or second round. He's still a highly rated quarterback and there are a lot of teams that need a signal caller. And unlike a lot of the homer sports writers and ESPN draft analysts who'll say otherwise, Locker was right to stay in college for one more year. He would have been the biggest quarterback bust since Ryan Leaf he came out in his junior year.

But the league is not kind to running quarterbacks and he'll be better off being drafted at the tail end of the first round by a team that can afford to develop him for a couple years instead of starting him in Week 3 so he can be maimed by the Giants or Ravens defense.

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