On my flight to Chicago this afternoon, I was watching ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption. Both of the show’s hosts – Mike Wilbon and Bob Ryan – gave Air Force a better-than-50-percent chance of winning tomorrow’s game at Notre Dame in the show’s oddsmaker segment.
Now, I think both Wilbon (who said there’s an 80 percent chance) and Ryan (who went with 68 percent) were basing their predictions more upon what they know about Notre Dame than what they do about Air Force. And that’s fine. Because they probably have no idea what Air Force has done this year.
That’s neither of their faults. Most people who don’t actively follow Air Force or the Mountain West Conference have zero idea that the Falcons are 7-3. They have no idea Air Force has a first-year coach that likely will be the league’s coach of the year and – with two more wins – should be in the discussion for national coach of the year. And they are clueless that Air Force has a player who – all kidding aside – probably at least should be mentioned in Heisman Trophy chatter. Honestly, is there any player on a bowl-eligible Division I-A football team that means more to his squad than Chad Hall?
So why doesn’t anybody know about this stuff? At least part of it has to do with the conference’s much-maligned television contract. It’s great that so many more games are televised than in the past and – more selfishly than anything – I love that games are (mostly) on Saturday afternoons instead of Monday and Tuesday nights.
But outside of fans of Mountain West Conference teams who actively seek out the games – nobody is watching. My parents wanted to watch Air Force’s game against New Mexico, but they don’t have Versus on their satellite package (they found this out after I explained to them that “Versus” was indeed an actual network).
What made me think about all this was the feeling of utter shock that I got when I saw Air Force highlights on PTI. While Wilbon and Ryan were talking, several plays were shown, including a Chad Hall touchdown run against New Mexico and Jimmy Ollis’ fourth-and-1 touchdown run against TCU.
I was legitimately stunned seeing the Falcons on the Worldwide Leader.
Earlier this week, I was talking to somebody at Air Force about this and he told me that on the morning after Air Force’s huge, thrilling OT victory over TCU, there was one highlight of the game on SportsCenter. Just Ryan Harrison’s game-winning field goal. Not Carson Bird’s key interception – with discussion about TCU’s decision to throw the ball instead of setting up for a field goal. Not Ollis’ run. Just Harrison’s kick.
Now, certainly some of this is a backlash to the Mountain West leaving ESPN to go it alone. Naturally, the network is going to give a little more love to conferences and sports with which it has agreements. Fair? Probably not. But the fact remains – if you ain’t on ESPN, people just don’t know about you.
Ask the NHL.
Speaking of not getting enough TV time, where’s the love for the BlogDog? Norm has nailed four straight games to improve to 7-3 and guarantee a winning season. But I don’t see any pundits talking about the BlogDog – even on The Mtn. I think Norm, at 7-3, deserves his own show.
Maybe that would convince the satellite providers to add the channel.
Since I do not have a Notre Dame helmet, Norm picked between a piece of paper with “AF” written on it in blue and a piece of paper with “ND” written on it in blue and gold. (Remember, if Norm picks the same team three times in a row, he’s thinking blowout. If he chooses one team three times and the other team once, he’s thinking the game will be decided by about seven to 10 points. If he chooses one team three times and the other one twice, he’s predicting a close game).
This week Norm went to Air Force, then Notre Dame twice, then Air Force twice.
Norm’s Pick: Air Force 27, Notre Dame 21
Norm’s Record: 7-3