And now a word from our ... college football bowl analysts

ON MEDIA

The Kickoff

December 22, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

The Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl - that's supposed to start and end the argument about how there are too many college football bowl games.

Far be it from me to complain about product or corporate naming of sporting events - not when I've been trying to get some company to be my column-sponsoring sugar daddy. (Hey, now that you're out of the bowl business, Weed Eater people, let me say how much I've always admired a nicely trimmed lawn. Call me.)

In any case, lawn implements didn't come up this week on a conference call with ESPN analysts Lou Holtz and Chris Spielman, but that likely wouldn't have swayed them from their stance that there aren't too many bowls - even though more than half of Division I-A teams are in postseason games.

(By the way, in case you missed them, two bowls already have been played, and there are five more being played through Sunday.)

"I have never been to a bad bowl," said Holtz, former coach at Notre Dame and South Carolina, among others.

Spielman said that before he got into television he "used to think that way," that the bowl schedule was overcrowded.

"Until I started working for ESPN and covering these games ... [he saw] there's interest out there, and they're great for the kids."

"The players get excited. ... It's a wonderful experience for the players," Holtz said, also citing the benefit an extra month of practice time can be to a team for the next season.

However, you'd better win that game, he said. After a bowl loss, "It is the most despondent group of fans," Holtz said.

As much as he adores all these bowl games, Holtz isn't against some kind of playoff system.

"Let's have a four-team playoff after the Jan. 1 bowls," he said.

Gee, Shnoop

I once thought Washington Capitals analyst Craig Laughlin had the market cornered on sounding the most like the cartoon mouse Blabber (from Snooper and Blabber) among TV sports personalities. But Holtz has him beat. ...

Holtz on the nation's No. 1 team: "I think this is the best Ohio State team since 1968." ... Spielman on what the Buckeyes need to watch out for from their national title game opponent: Florida coach Urban Meyer "is going to have some kind of trick play, some gizmo." ... Holtz on having a coach on his way out - either through firing or retirement - stay through a bowl game: "Let the guy take a last lap with his team."

Owning up

ESPN bought into the Arena Football League this week, so expect to see more of that indoor brand on its various channels and other ESPN media.

With ESPN holding a share in ownership of the AFL, "It becomes a true partnership, and I think that, therefore, ESPN becomes strongly incentivized toward promoting it and growing us," arena league commissioner David Baker said in a conference call Tuesday.

First of all, let us all congratulate the commissioner for enabling me to use "incentivized" in print. Second of all, for those who would say arena league part-ownership distorts ESPN's approach to the game, keep in mind that the network has financial reason to be incentivized in lots of other sports.

John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president of content, said: "We don't say when we do a Monday Night Football game, `We paid a lot of money for this game. You should be aware we have an interest in promoting it.' ... I think people understand that we and the leagues are in business together, and we have just as much financial incentive to promote NBA games or Major League Baseball games because we have a big, big bet on those. This just happens to take a different form."

Splitting time?

After Wednesday's announcement that Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is adding a simulcast of John Riggins' radio show, MASN will have to figure out a way to accommodate his program and the current simulcast of Anita Marks' WJFK (1300 AM) show, which airs at the same time. MASN has until Riggins' start in February to figure it out, but a MASN spokesman said the network plans to televise both.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

The Chicago Tribune contributed to this article.

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