“The Honey Badger doesn’t care…he takes what he wants.”
This is the phrase commonly associated the cornerback Tyrann Mathieu in an attempt to describe his fearless and attacking approach to football.
Monday night, apparently, it more aptly described the general attitude towards the BCS National Championship Game between LSU and Alabama. As in, “The honey badger doesn’t care…and neither do the fans of college football or casual sports viewers or sponsors or even the LSU offense, which forgot to show up.
Yesterday, Al.com revealed what many suspected–that viewers were not tuned into Monday night’s rematch between the two SEC schools:
Overnight ratings for Alabama’s 21-0 victory over LSU were the lowest for a national championship in the 14-year history of the BCS. The All-SEC affair, the first championship pairing teams from the same conference, drew a 13.8 overnight rating on ESPN. The previous record low was a 14.3 for Miami-Nebraska at the 2002 Rose Bowl.
Theories abound as to why the ratings were so low, even in light of the projections that ratings would be low for this particular matchup:
- ESPN aired the game and is a premium cable package–meaning that viewership would take a hit in this recession-stilted television market.
- LSU and Alabama played once during this season. Viewers are uninterested in a rematch game.
- This game was billed as a battle of defenses and viewers prefer more scoring.
I actually offer an additional explanation: Injustice.
The last championship game to get such a low rating (Nebraska and Miami in ’02) was also marked by a measure of injustice. Nebraska did not play in its own conference championship game. Yet due to BCS computer averages, Nebraska was computed into the championship game over two-loss Colorado (who already beat Nebraska) and one-loss Oregon. Viewers cried foul and apparently backed up their frustration by not watching the game, a 37 to 14 shellacking at the hand of Miami.
Monday night’s game appears to have been affected by the same sense of injustice–an important and influential perception factor when dealing with Millennials. Younger viewers (who, by the way, are the target market for these contests) by-and-large believe the BCS to be an unjust system and that either a retooled system or playoff system are preferable options. When the championship game is viewed as part of an unfair system and when the two teams don’t appear to be the best two teams, and when the two teams have already played, and when the two teams only play defense–you have the perfect concoction for a stinker of a television event.
Apparently, if only one side of the ball shows up then viewers prefer that it be the “offensive” side (irony, no?) The Valero Alamo Bowl received the highest non-BCS bowl audience ever for ESPN, which is the same network that aired the national championship.
The “ESPN is a premium channel and we are in a recession” argument is bunk. Baylor-Washington attracted 5.1 million viewers on a Thursday night before New Years and was fighting the best lineup of programming on television. The BCS title game scrounged up 16 million watchers when it was the prime feature on a bland Monday in January.
The Alamo Bowl did not fight injustice.
The Alamo Bowl brought offense to the table.
I think it is time for a playoff.