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Bye-week games to watch

One of the few fan benefits of a bye week, is it is a good chance to watch other games one might otherwise not have time for.  Unfortunately, a couple of the teams I was interested in watching are themselves either on bye or play a meaningless game:

  • BYU is playing an FCS team
  • UCLA is on bye

But there’s still 4 I would suggest considering.  Here’s what I would suggest (in order of importance):

  1. Stanford @ Oregon (5 PM PDT, ABC): Duh!  Cal plays Oregon in one week, so it’ll be good to get a glimpse of them as they face their first meaningful opponent (it’s been all cupcakes for them thus far).
  2. Arizona @ Oregon State (1:00 PM, Pac-12 Net): If this overlapped with the higher priority game, I wouldn’t have included it.  But, since the afternoon is devoid of other Pac-12 games (great scheduling again Pac-12!), might as well make it a quadruple-header.  Cal plays both teams in the next month and it will be good to know if either team has anything to be feared.
  3. ASU @ UW (7:30 PM, ESPN) I expect UW to kick the tar out of ASU, despite ASU having over-achieved thus far.  However, if I’m wrong, when that Oregon game wraps up and if this is a close one, switch on over.  However, if it’s a snoozer as expected, perhaps 3 games was enough and it’s time for bed.  That way you’ve got no excuse Sunday morning and hopefully will make it to Church. 🙂
  4. Pittsburgh @ North Carolina (9:20 AM, ACC-NE): UNC missed their game with UCF due to the hurricane.  It will be interesting to see if they bounce back from their loss to ECU and show some backbone.  Again, since there is no conflict, why not?

So there you have it… get up early and watch 4 games with no more than an hour break in between and hopefully only about an hour of over-lap on the late games.  Enjoy!

(Oh, don’t forget the WSU @ USC game tonight as well)

Grrrr…. stinking 7:30 PM start

It’s been announced that the Cal vs. Oregon game on Saturday 9/29 will be at 7:30 PM.  Which of course really means it will kick off at 7:42 or something ridiculous like that.

I guess I could grudgingly accept the 7:00 PM starts, and I know that we’ve had the 7:30 PM starts for a few years now, but it just feels like they keep pushing more games, even supposedly pretty good games, back to 7:30 PM and it’s only going to get later and later, no matter how good the match-up is.  I mean, the Bears will be undefeated, having beaten ranked BYU and Oregon will at worst be 3-1 with their only loss potentially being to a top-10 Stanford team.  Or even better, the Ducks will be undefeated having just knocked off a top-10 team.

That’s a game that belongs at the end of the day after the East Coast is in bed?  Feels to me like it should be a 4 PM game.

Larry Scott’s PR campaign is complete BS

Obviously Larry Scott and Co. have realized that the entire conference fan base is ready to revolt over the ridiculous number of late night games (starting at 7:45 PM… are you FREAKING kidding me!?1).  They’ve got the game announcers constantly repeating talking points and then he even comes on live for an interview to repeat those talking points.  Here are some rebuttal points:

  • There’s more to visibility than the TV rating numbers.  People flip between games.  People watch halftime highlights.  People watch the ESPN recap shows in the evening.  All of these things are happening before our late games kick off.
  • It’s not just that there are *some* late night games, it is that the MAJORITY of Pac-12 games are late night games.  All us fans want is balance.  Don’t tell me in an interview “it’s a delicate balance’ when there is ZERO balance.
  • It’s not just TV that matters.  Attendance matters too.  There’s no doubt it hurts alumni support for the program as well.
  • All of the above affects recruiting as well, so there are other long term effects as well.

Give it up Scott.  It was a money grab from the get go and your conference’s fans hate it.

Quick thought on late night games

I was reading Jon Wilner’s conference recap post and this got me to thinking:

Night court: Cal

Outcome of Cal games have been in doubt at 11:30 p.m. on back-to-back Saturdays. I’d guess that’s a first in conference history.

Yeah, probably a first, but also without a doubt ridiculous.  These 7:30 PM starts (which really was closer to 7:40 kickoff on Saturday) are just unacceptable.  Even 7 PM is used WAAY to much, but to add another half hour is unacceptable.

Cordcutting Pac-12 fans rejoice!

One of the ONLY hard parts of dumping the Cable/Satellite package is the difficulty watching sports, particularly (for me) Cal football games.  For a year or two now, the Sling service has been a good alternative, providing a number of popular cable channels including ESPN at a cheap price (as little as $20/month), but of little use to us Cal fans as it didn’t have the Pac-12 network.

Until now: Press release – Sling to add Pac-12 network

The minimum cost to get it is $25 a month (with the “Orange package” for $20 plus the “Sports Extra” add-on package for $5 more), with no long term contract, so you can join for just a few months each fall if that’s what you want.  That will get you ESPN, ESPN2 and all 6 regional Pac-12 networks.  If one then has an antenna to pickup local channels to get ABC and FOX, you’ll be covered for almost every Pac-12 game.

There are unfortunately 2 exceptions:

  1. The Pac-12 TV contract allows for Pac-12 home games on all of the above stations (ESPN, ESPN2, Pac-12Nets, ABC and FOX) but also allows for FOX to downgrade their games to FS1 (Fox Sports 1).  To get that channel, you’ll need to switch to the “Blue” package from Sling.  Unfortunately, that will cost you the ESPN channels.  So to get ALL of the channels a Pac-12 home game could be on, you’ll need the “Orange” plus “Blue” plus “Sports Extra” add on, which will double your cost to $50 a month.
  2. The other problem is non-conference road games where it will be based on the TV contract of the home team.  So in the case of THIS Saturday’s Cal game at San Diego State, that game will be on CBS Sports Network, which is not available on Sling.

#1 above begs an interesting question: Since it’s a rare case a Cal game will be on FS1, can one stick with the cheaper “Orange” + “Sports Extra” and upgrade just when the needed Cal game comes up?  I contacted Sling to find out and the answer is yes, you can upgrade mid-billing-cycle and it will be pro-rated until the end of the billing cycle.  What was unclear was whether you could downgrade back to the lower package when the billing cycle renews or whether you were stuck with it for a whole month after that.  Still, to cut the price in half for even a portion of the season would be preferable.

WSU Game set for 7:30 PM on Pac-12 network

BearTalk let’s us know what we’d expect (an off-prime-time game on Pac-12 network).

Which leads me to a question… anyone know how much data the ‘Pac-12 Now’ app will use if I watch the game on 4G?

2011 and before forgotten?

Sorry it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Longtime readers know that I’m often quiet during the off-season. But I needed to put something up just to get the Ted Agu post off the top…

In any case, the ESPN Pac-12 blog has a post up about the best wins between World Cups for each team. For Cal they picked the 43-17 victory over UCLA in 2012:

The Bears haven’t had a lot of quality victories between World Cups. They went 0-4 against rival Stanford and failed to beat an FBS team in 2013. In fact, they’ve lost 16 straight games to FBS squads. Their last win was on Oct. 13, 2012, when they topped Washington State 31-17. The week before, however, they shocked a surging UCLA team, 43-17, behind a 25-of-30 passing performance by Zach Maynard, who threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns.

Am I the only one who feels people have completely forgotten anything that happened before 2012? Not a lot of quality victories? May I humbly remind ESPN:

2011: Cal 47 – ASU 38
2011: Cal 23 – OSU 6
2011: Cal 34 – Utah 10 (Utah went 8-5 that year)
2010: Cal 50 – ASU 17
2010: Cal 35 – UCLA 7
2010: Cal 52 – Colorado 7

It may be that 43-17 over UCLA in 2012 is still the best victory (they did win the Pac-12 South and were 9-3 in the regular season), but it’s a pretty weak statement to say that Cal hasn’t had many quality victories in the last 4 years.

2011 had a lot of hope in it and some pretty strong performances. (It has some frustrating moments too). 2010 was looking promising until Reilly had his knee blown out.

It’s amazing how quickly people forget…

Torrents of Cal games?

All the old torrent sites seem to be down (or moved?). Anyone know how to get them? Post a comment or e-mail me at blog @ excusemeformyvoice DOT com.

Update on 9/3 @ 8 AM: Looks like the main site from last year is back up.

An article worth reading before the game

I don’t usually link to articles at our local papers. I figure you can go look for Cal stuff there yourself if you’re interested. It doesn’t take a genius to do it and let’s face it, if we’re smart enough to be Cal fans… (I’ll let you fill in the rest).

But this one about the connections between Cal’s legendary coach Pappy Waldorf and Northwestern is worth reading. See it here.

I’ll stick to college football

(Sorry for the lack of posts. I may have a post or two now and then (probably a couple around signing day for instance and a few around spring practice) but it’s going to be pretty quiet for the next few months. I’ll be back in regular form when fall practice gets under way.)

I watched the Superbowl last night and reminded myself why I prefer college football. Who here thinks Beyonce’s halftime show is appropriate for 10 year old boys? I sure as heck don’t. Yeah, it was no nipple-gate, but still, that outfit and her gyrations were so hyper-sexualized that it frankly upset me watching my 10-year old (my oldest) practically drooling sitting 5 feet from our new LED-LCD HDTV (in a shock and awe kinda way… he hasn’t hit puberty yet).

I probably wouldn’t have thought much of the otherwise ho-hum performance if he wasn’t in the room, but watching him watch it, I thought to myself “uhhh… he shouldn’t be watching this… uhhh… do I make a big deal about it and get him out of the room (and thus giving it an allure) or do I just pretend it’s no big deal… uhhh… decision paralysis!?!” (I ended up pretending it was no big deal.)

And there were similar issues in some of the commercials too. (As an aside, what a weak year for the commercials… there were a couple good ones, but overall weak.)

It was so bad I’m considering writing a letter to the NFL. They pretend to try and be family friendly, and those pretenses used to have some moderating effect on the content, but I think they’ve abandoned any meaningful commitment to that in the last couple years.

And I thought to myself after watching the trophy ceremony and turned off the TV after 6 continuous hours (started watching at 2:30) of an amazingly over-hyped, over-produced affair, that I really, really, really prefer college football.

It’s far more family friendly and far more about the sport itself.

Let’s not get carried away… it was WSU

Jeff Faraudo says: “O-line delivers most encouraging performance yet”

The Bears offensive line ALWAYS looks good against WSU. I wouldn’t get too excited about that performance.

Big Game time set for Noon

I normally don’t post this sort of thing, but seeing as how it’s not up on any other site yet, I figured I would…

Big Game to kickoff at Noon, to be telecast on Fox

Anyone hoping that the Bears magic was related to playing night games, need to change their reason for hope if they hope for the Ax to return to Berkeley this year.

Sandy Barbour declares war on DirecTV

First there was an article on SFGAte, which drew plenty of attention. She was very direct with her quotes:

She’s threatening to cancel her DTV subscription and is encouraging her fellow Cal fans with the service to do the same by Thursday, when Pac-12 games begin airing on the conference’s networks.

“I’ve been a DirecTV customer since 1996. I’d hate to lose it, but I want to get the Pac-12 Networks,” Barbour said.

“DirecTV has been phenomenal in their customer service up until now. This is a nonstarter for me. If DirecTV can’t figure out how to carry the Pac-12 Networks by the first football game (on Thursday), I’m done.”

Now, she REALLY goes for blood and brings a film crew out to her house when she has the Comcast crew out to change her service:

Wow! And I love that it’s a Cal spot when she first brings up the Pac-12 channel.

I’ve always thought Sandy does a very good job and has the right balance of being open and friendly, yet direct when it’s called for. This is a great example of her doing her part to put pressure on DirecTV to get their act in gear and sign a contract with the Pac-12.

We should do this!

From Ted Miller’s “Worst Case Scenario” for Stanford:

as players are vigilantly studying their playbooks on team-issued iPads, the screens become pixilated and blurry. Then they dissolve into the Cal logo.

“You’ve been hacked by Oski!” it scrolls across the screen over a laughing, dancing Oski. “Tell Schwartzstein to never compare Kissinger to anything at Cal ever again!”

Ten minutes later, Stanford’s entire playbook is on Wiki Leaks.

The Big Game belongs to California, 28-21, as Zach Maynard throws two touchdown passes and the Bears roll up 210 yards on the ground against a rugged Stanford defense.

Seriously, how hard could it be? They’ve probably got sequential serial numbers and network identifiers. All we have to do is get one and the rest won’t be far away. Then we get CGB to hack into “Rule of Tree” and embed some content that when downloaded to an iPad with the right identifiers, waits for the key moment in October.

Pac-12 network did it wrong

I promised myself I wasn’t going to get into this mess, but I just can’t help myself…

Last year Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott laid out a beautiful vision for Pac-12 sports. All football games to be televised nationally! ABC/ESPN and FOX/FX to carry our “big” games and the rest to be on the nationally available Pac-12 network. A deal has been cut with the big 4 cable companies to ensure just about everyone (subtext: who’s willing to switch providers) will be able to get the Pac-12 network! Plus there will be streaming available too!

Sound great, right?

Yes it does… only one problem, they made a deal with the devil, or at least his video content branch office: the cable companies, who are very adept at making it sound great, but in truth it’s nothing like promised.

When the network launched last week we quickly found out how UN-foolproof the contract Scott negotiated with the ‘big 4’. Apparently the weren’t obligated to carry the Pac-12 network just about anywhere, even in areas well within the “league footprint”, much less across the country. At the same time, the Pac-12 is bound that they can’t stream to non-cable-subscribers, even for a fee, even in regions where they have no ability to get the content, at any price, from a cable company. And I won’t even start (at least in this post) about the whole regional channel problem, where much content will be unique to regional channels and there are currently ZERO providers who offer the ability to get more than one regional channel at any price.

But this isn’t even my complaint for this post. The retort to all the above complaints is that this was the best way to get the Pac-12 to the most homes in the quickest fashion and similarly the best way for the Pac-12 to capitalize (literally: make money) on the Pac-12 network right now.

Frankly, it’s a fair argument and they’re probably right.

But it’s also very short sighted.

Everyone in the know acknowledges that the cable companies are in a tough spot right now. Internet streaming is gutting their business. Netflix streaming was the first salvo that dramatically undercut the cable companies. Over time there will be very little the cable companies can do to prevent customers from getting what they always wanted all along: a-la carte programming directly from the vendor.

But the problem is that the percentage of viewers who are ready for an all-streamed solution is small, particularly outside technically savvy regions like Northern California. So what do you do when you’re the Pac-12 network? Do you eschew the cable providers and go all-streaming knowing that in the short term you’re going to lose some viewers? Or instead do you make a deal with the devil’s local branch office?

I’m actually OK with making the deal, with one caveat… you have to come up with a transition plan/strategy. How are you going to get out of that deal in 5-10 years when just about every American household is streaming capable and all the cable companies are doing is holding you back?

And unless Scott is a super-genius who’s written in some key time-bomb/exit clause into his contracts (which the way the last month has unfolded seems exceedingly unlikely), that’s the problem.

This contract was written explicitly to ensure that the Pac-12 CAN NOT make the transition. The reason is simple: you have to have an agreement with a cable company for the Pac-12 to be able to stream content to you. In other words the cable companies have ensured that they’re the arbiter of the Pac-12 Network. There’s no escape. The only way out is a cold-turkey approach, one that will tick off people who are stuck in multi-year contracts with the cable company when the Pac-12 finally decides to stop selling the Pac-12 network to the cable companies and stream independently. Those customers will, for a year or two, be stuck paying their cable bill without getting the channels they signed up for AND be asked to pay independently for the Pac-12 streaming service.

The right solution was to start off all-streaming and charge for that stream. There are enough die-hard Pac-12 fans who are young/savvy enough to start off with meaningful revenue in 2012. Work aggressively to get a plug-in on all the major streaming boxes from the Roku to the Bluray players and the TVs to make it available to the somewhat savvy. The NHL did it that way, and I don’t know how successful it is right now, but I guarantee you in the long run they’re going to look like geniuses.

But not the Pac-12.

5 years now when business magazines and websites will be lauding the NHL for re-inventing itself after their strike and getting ahead of the technology transition, from being locked in to the cable companies, the Pac-12 will be mired in binding contracts and we’ll be wondering what the heck Larry Scott was thinking in 2012 when he made the remarkably short-term decision to make a deal with the devil.

Pawlawski to join Starkey on radio

I’m of a mixed mind on this, but Mike Pawlawski (and if I have to tell you who he is, just leave now, OK?… wait, that was prematurely harsh… go look it up and then come back) just joined the Cal Football radio team, replacing Troy Taylor:

I haven’t been listening to the radio broadcasts in the last few years. When I last listened with any regularity Grosscup was with Starkey. So I don’t know how Troy Taylor was doing. Maybe this is a step up.

But what I don’t like about Pawlawski is that when I see him on the TV broadcasts he treats us like children and only has a couple meaningful things to say that he repeats over and over and over… particularly if you’re watching over multiple games. How many times last year did I hear that Allen had “great kinesthetic awareness”?

Maybe he’s different on radio, so I don’t know really whether this is a good pick, but if he’s anything like he is on TV, I predict it’ll be a short run and Starkey, who’s notorious for getting rid of guys he doesn’t gel with, will show him the door within a season or two.

TV contracts and the Pac-12 Network

As I just posted, I’m going to most of the games this year. That’s why you won’t hear a lot from me about the TV contracts and the new Pac-12 Network. As mentioned in a previous post, we “cut the cord” after last season, dumping DirecTV after many years. It was just too expensive and we hardly watch TV at our house, not for any theological/principled reasons, but just because we’re always doing something. Netflix streaming filled any holes we had, especially for the kids.

At that time, the plan was that we’d likely turn back on service for the football season. But since we’re now talking about only 3 games, I made the budgetary decision to leave it off and watch the 3 remaining games from a local sports bar. I’m sure I’ll find one with a free Wi-Fi connection and a power outlet to do live-blogging.

Plus, since I was projecting the TV service to cost on the order of $250 for the season, I’ll be able to buy more beer and hot-wings than any human should reasonably eat… although that’s unlikely to slow me down. 🙂

It may be that I’ll regret not paying more attention to the TV contracts, as there may be issues with finding sports bars that have the games. It occurred to me that most sports bars use DirecTV as it traditionally has the most sports, but as most of us know, at this juncture there is not a contract between DirecTV and the Pac-12 Network.

So perhaps there WILL be plenty of time for hand-wringing and rants.

Utah game not picked up on TV

Wow… just wow. The Washington State at Oregon State game got picked up and the Utah at Cal game did not. This is a sad, sad, sad day. The WSU-OSU game is the LEAST desired game in all of the Pac. It’s two tiny TV markets with teams with small followings. It almost doesn’t matter how good both teams are, it still never gets picked up.

Instead, we’re stuck waiting one more day on a start time for Utah and it’s quite clear Cal is no longer the media darling that gets lots of TV attention that it used to.

Press respect starting to roll in, one poll vote

Saturday night when I got home I surveyed the various news outlets to see if there was any press about the Bears. There was nothing at all. No mention of the game on ESPN, even on the college football centric shows. Even Ted Miller had nothing to say, with the game basically playing at the same time as the Oregon/LSU game he was at.

But once all the various press outlets caught their collective breaths, they re-looked at all the ‘minor’ games they hadn’t been watching and the good news has started rolling in:

(and I’m sure there are some other’s I read and can’t remember right now.)

OK, so it’s not exactly high-praise, but it’s a big step up from where we have been. Cal has been this anonymous team that nobody talks about. In 2006, the game versus Fresno would have been one of the higher billed games of the weekend. Instead we were an also-ran.

If the Bears can beat Colorado in convincing fashion (and then of course get the easy win over the Blue Hose), all of a sudden the game up in Seattle may come with a fairly high billing that week.

More new contract numbers

New conference commissioner is obviously very good at his job. There’s 3 billion obvious reasons ($$$) why. But as I was dissecting the details we have about the contract, one major thing hit me:

Minus the dollar figure, the CONTRACT is not as big of a change as it was pitched.

And at first glance, that seems ridiculous, but if you think about it, it’s remarkably similar to what we have today (minus the dollars of course). The key thing to note is that the Pac-12 TV Network (I’ll call it the “P12N”) is for all intents and purposes not part of the contract. I mean, none of that $3 billion dollars is paid so that we can have the P12N. If anything the contract dollar figure is smaller because we’re keeping the rights to broadcast the games.

But we have that today. Any game that isn’t picked up by either ABC/ESPN or Fox, is free for the home team to schedule through independent contract. Of course the P12N will centralize that and make the distribution of those games go through the conference, but again, while there may be language in the contract regarding that, it’s not a fundamental change in what sorts of rights the TV network has.

Once one breaks through that barrier, the rest of the similarities become clear:

Item Old New
TV Networks involved ABC/ESPN and Fox ABC/ESPN and Fox
TV channels involved ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, FSN channels and Versus (through Fox contract) ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox, FX, FSN channels
Number of games in contract ~40 44
Both conference and non-conference games Yes Yes
Conference retains distribution rights for games outside contract Yes Yes
TV network get first picks Yes Most of the time
Selections made mid-season Yes Yes
Flexibility on Thursday/Friday Sometimes Yes
Flexibility on Saturday times Yes Yes

The number of games included was the part for me that really drove the point home in my mind. This contract was pitched as covering “all games”, but when you get right down to it, it’s just a few more games a year (including the conference championship game).

Now, to be fair, it appears that on the Basketball side, we’ll be getting a lot more games on ESPN than before, but since this blog is a football blog, I’ll overlook that in this post.

Also, the addition of games on Fox and FX for the Fox side of the contract is notable for giving us more exposure, particularly since the FSN networks are not in a lot of people’s cable/satellite package. In fact, games on Fox, might just be the one area we’ll really get better national visibility.

But in my mind the biggest change is that the conference now gets some higher priority picks for their own distribution, as opposed to just getting the table scraps of what the TV networks didn’t want.

To be clear, I think the P12N is a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE deal. The fact that every game will be on TV is a big deal. But it’s not really part of that $3 billion dollar contract (in fact, it’ll take some of those dollars away from the schools for start-up dollars). What we really got is a contract that is remarkably similar to what we’ve had in the past, but we finally got ABC/ESPN and Fox to pony up for what it was worth and as a result, they’ll be showing a few more of those games on their best channels.

Just trying to put things into perspective…