The New Year’s resolution was to carefully monitor caloric intake. ESPN’s carb-loaded coverage of the college football national championship game already tipped the scales. Not in our favor.
There were 17 different entry points for Monday night’s Alabama-Clemson game in Santa Clara. We needed just one safe exit and couldn’t find it. At issue is the continued perverse idea behind the miscast “MegaCast.” It’s become as bloated as a Cheesecake Factory menu, topped off with all 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins and bound together by a CVS register receipt.
When the network introduced this “MegaCast” monstrosity five years ago, it didn’t come with any suggested operational instructions. We were just told that technology’s advancements allowed for it to fragment the audience even more than it currently attempts. It also could get more of its talent on different channels, perhaps to expose more of their flaws.
The word “Mega” sounded cool, like a Mega Millions jackpot. Now, we feel emotionally bankrupt. No longer razzled by the dazzle. Far more rattled by a constantly wrong decision process. A freedom of choice devolved into a dilemma of doom.
What channel has the secret code to get out of this panic room?
“MegaCast” wants to feel you’ve been led to a good place. But we know better after a recent binge watch of the NBC sitcom called “The Good Place.” Spoiler alert — Ted Danson dupes everyone when he says this place is good. He’s secretly torturing you, playing into your deadly sinful ways. An ethics professor named Chidi figures it out, but his main character flaw — he can’t make a decision.
“MegaCast” would truly kill a guy like Chidi. The rest of us need a guardian angle (as it were) to escape.
Monday was more paralysis by indecisiveness, a fear we were missing something bigger, better or more boisterous on another channel.
Every time we flipped, we seemed to miss a score. How’s that user-friendly?
Just to run it all down again:
* ESPN had the main feed. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, who are fine on a Week 7 Ohio State-Purdue game, but will never have the commanding presence of a Keith Jackson, Brent Musburger or Merlin Olsen. ABC didn’t even want to simulcast this. There’d be too many complaints filed by those whose routines were disrupted by a delayed broadcast of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.”
* On ESPN2, it was “Field Pass.” Adam Amin and Steve Levy, two play-by-play guys, called it as they saw it near the team benches, trying to avoid getting wiped out by an out-of-bounds tackle. They also found people to interview who seemed to think Tua Tagovailoa was their favorite flavor of Girl Scout cookies.
* ESPNews made news by bouncing the Coaches Film Room and converting it into the Monday Night Football Film Room. A shameful renovation to try to save a sinking ship of fools. Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland sat around a table, talked about each play in highly technical terms, and Todd McShay operated the clicker. At one point, McFarland asked what the Levi’s Stadium address was so he could complete an Uber Eats delivery order. Relegating them to this distant ESPN channel could be a first step in improving the “MNF” experience in the fall of ’19.
(By the way, UCLA’s Chip Kelly, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Colorado’s Mel Tucker were on several ESPN onsite pregame shows Monday. If only they could have got together for a Coaches’ Share Ride channel?)
* If the “MNF” booth tried to give value to the Xs and O’s, then the SEC Network’s “Thinking Out Loud” production was a sad party in someone’s parents basement filled with exes and “Oh nos!” Tim Tebow and three others drawlin’ at the screen about everything going against ’Bama. Quiet prayer would have been more useful.
* ESPNU’s “Command Center” was the closest thing to a 7-Eleven security camera setup. A well-proportioned mashup of stats, sideline cameras and a bottom screen scroll to remind everyone about a free trial of ESPN+ when you get a sec. Nah, we’re good.
* Online, the ESPN3.com site could access all of the above, plus more feeds like the hometown radio calls – which didn’t make us feel at all like home. Nor did watching down on things through a “BlimpCast,” “SkyCam,” “High SkyCam” and the “All 22” Cam, four things that all essentially look the same for anyone acrophobic.
Maybe the real missed opportunity was for ESPN to add Netflix to the “MegaCast” with a continuous loop of Sandra Bullock’s voice: “Under no circumstance are you allowed to take off your blindfold. If we look at what’s out there, we will not make it.”
Somehow, we did make it. We looked at the lineup again. We realize we skipped over ESPN Classic.
What did it offer? Nothing. Just like a “Seinfeld” episode. Just a picture and stadium sounds. No broadcasters. No frilly camera angles. No giant Boogers. No commercials.