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Digital cable sports much ado about nothing

Gentle friends of the weekly monologue, I am here to serve you. You may skim past my byline, and avert your eyes from my hideous mug (that manages to turn my brown eyes green!), but this space is reserved for our collective sports experience.

It is in that vein that your ever-humble scribe sounds the following alarm: Purchase digital cable at your own risk.

Perhaps this warning lacks background explanation, so here we go.

I was one of those children who ate paste while sucking apple juice through my nose well into adolescence (you can relate), but I didn't do it in front of Nickelodeon or Disney - I did it magnetized to ESPN.

In those days of yore, the sports maven's options were preciously few, i.e. one. It was ESPN or bust, so I watched - religiously.

Somewhere along the line, however, TV lost its wits. One 24-7-365 sports obsession no longer sufficed. Every network had to have two ... or three ... or more.

Consequently, ESPN2 launched. Soon FOX Sports Net appeared. Hot on its trail was MSG Network. Then FOX Sports Regional ... and CNNSI ... and ESPN News ... and ESPN World ... and, O.K. - that's enough. Pretty soon, 24-hour sports networks dotted the landscape like West Texas oil derricks.

TV passed it off as variety, and until recently, it actually had me on the merits of that defense. Then I went for the gusto: I emptied my checkbook for a leap into the mystical television unknown and ordered the entire digital package, replete with all of the aforementioned sports stations, in addition to about 130 other options, of which at least 123 offer up some combination of "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Starsky and Hutch" reruns.

What I discovered was overkill.

Brothers and sisters in sport, sad as it is to admit, you are paying extra for little in the way of legitimate programming. Instead you get the following:

FOX's "You Gotta See This": To quote verbatim from the promotional kit, the show presents everything from "spectacular auto racing crashes to Olympic skiers careening down icy mountains, from sky divers crashing to earth to amazing bullfight incidents."

Once again FOX proves there's no tact in tacky.

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  • The sound of bone fractures may not meet your aesthetic fancy, but don't turn that dial - you're only minutes away from "The Best Damn Sports Show Period!"

    Renowned loudmouths John Kruk, Deacon Jones and Reggie Theus join Chris Rose (who?) for an attitude-heavy shouting match that sheds more heat than light.

    ESPN stands only a rung higher on this rickety stepladder, though.

    Ever boastful of its standing as the "Worldwide Leader in Sports," ESPN offered the following selections in scintillation Sunday: A double dose of drag racing, followed by the best in Big Ten women's volleyball.

    And when ESPN isn't showcasing alligator wrestling in Morocco, it's likely regurgitating "Sportscenter" for the n-teenth time. Sure, it's still a quality program ... the first time. At what point, though, do Linda Cohn and John Anderson waxing athletic in your earhole all morning drive you to the remote control?

    Like a Viper going 50 in a school zone, I now know to blow right by ESPN2, whose mixture of X-Sports and Paul Bunyon challenges is just a little too fly for this hip replacement.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum is ESPN News, the pioneer in 24-hour news networks. The station replays itself over and over again, only to jump in with late-breaking updates and humdrum press conferences. In other words, right now, it's a huge Joe Torre infomercial.

    Dear reader, all of this has me wrestling with the idea of (gulp) canceling my digital cable subscription, which would force me to do the unthinkable - watch the news.