ESPN Holds Ticketholders Hostage with "Sometime After" 8 pm Kickoff

The Big XII conference announced today that the Nebraska-Missouri game would be televised by ESPN was met with two reactions from Husker fans:  "Cool!" or "F***."  Which group you are in depends on two factors:  where you live and whether you have tickets.

You see, the game has been scheduled to fit into ESPN's 8 pm CDT broadcast window, following the Auburn at Vanderbilt broadcast at 5 pm.  Of course, college football games usually run much longer than three hourse, so look for kickoff perhaps as late as 8:20 pm.  And that might not be late enough; last year's Missouri-Nebraska game kicked off while most of the country was still watching the early game, and by the time that first game ended, Missouri was up 14-0 and rolling.  So maybe they'll push the kickoff back even later.

So what's the big deal, you ask? Again, the question revolves around whether you were going to the game in person.  If you live on the east coast, you might debate whether or not to watch it live or DVR it for the next morning.  Central time zone, you might have to stay up late, since it'll probably get over around midnight.  Out on the west coast, this is a great primetime telecast for you.  And folks in Hawaii will just have to postpone their plans for a sunset dinner on the beach with the 3 pm HST broadcast.

It's another matter entirely for those of us with tickets to the game.  We're used to being slaves to the television networks.  Sometimes kickoff is at 11 am.  This weekend, it's 7 pm.  Next weekend, it's sometime after 8 pm.  With games usually running about three and a half hours, fans may still be in their seats at the stroke of midnight.

Post-game tailgating?  Make it quick.  The bars all close at 1 am.  Chances are most fans will just head for their cars and all head for home at the same time...likely making it the worst post-game traffic jam ever.  On an non-game day, it takes me an hour to drive from Lincoln to Omaha.  Post game, it stretches to a little over two hours.  I'm betting on getting home around 3 am Sunday morning.  At least I'm hoping so.  With the amount of pre-game drinking, the absurdly late hour, and the rush to get home, this will be the most dangerous drive home.

You think many Husker fans will be participating in the Susan G. Komen "Race for the Cure" at 8 am Sunday morning?

I understand the good publicity of a primetime telecast; it can be good for the program.  An ESPN broadcast is good news for fans since they won't have to deal with an FSN production (even though Artie Gigantino is long gone from the FSN announcer lineup).

But considering how little the TV networks pay for the rights to broadcast these games, is it really fair for the networks to dictate such widely varying game times, especially with only a few days notice?  For some fans, it doesn't make any difference what time the game is.  Others have to arrange hotels, find babysitters, plan menus, all the while the television networks sit on their hands, unwilling to make a commitment to fans who are paying much more than they are.

What do you think?

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