I have access to about a dozen sports-only TV channels. Five different ESPN channels, three or four FOX sports channels, Golf, NFL, SPEED, Versus... you get the idea.
Among the things I can watch today and tonight... fishing, lots of things involving motorized vehicles, some of which burn jet fuel (I think), College Lumbersports (WTF?), and hours upon hours of POKER. This is, of course, in addition to a wealth of College and pro football related coverage and of course lots of baseball games. I can even see replays of both the Dodgers and the Angels (I have a TiVo, why do I need a replay?).
Meanwhile, there's a basketball tournament going on in Europe that features some of the great players in all the world, including NBA All Stars like Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Andrei Kirilenko, and Mehmut Okur and of course league MVP Dirk Nowitzki. You want young talent? How about former 2nd overall pick Darko Milicic? Or last year's 1st overall pick Andrea Bargnani? Or the best player from this summer's NBA Summer League, Marco Bellinelli? And for the true basketball fans, don't forget about the young European players that will be on next year's draft board. It's hard to compare the latest hot European import to OJ Mayo if you've never actually seen the guy play.
But can I watch this tournament? That would be no. Because I would apparently rather watch College Lumbersports and POKER!
115 countries bought the broadcast rights to EuroBasket 2007. The United States was not one of them. Now, I assume that the TV execs know their business, and they're just giving the public what they want. So what is it about the American psyche that we would rather watch college kids chopping down trees (I'm just guessing here, not actually knowing what is involved in a Lumbersport) than watch Dirk Nowitzki play basketball? Sorry, we'll watch Dirk, but only if there are Americans on the court with him.
This "I'm not interested unless there's an American involved" thing is very strange. Do I have any more or less connection to Dirk Nowitzki than I do to Elton Brand? I've never been to Peekskill, NY. As it happens, I've actually been to Würzburg. The Tour de France was around for 100 years before the American TV audience even acknowledged it's existence, and only then it was because of Greg LeMond and of course Lance Armstrong. But why do I care any more about Lance Armstrong than about Jan Ullrich? Should I?
It's not as if Americans don't like basketball. I mean, I don't think it's a stretch to say that Americans like basketball a little more than they like, say, fishing. And those Mavs fans certainly seemed to have warmed to Dirk as long as he's playing for them (and we're talking about people from Texas here). We're certainly not purists who will only watch the NBA. March Madness is one of the biggest TV events on the sports calendar, and there are a couple of WNBA games on today as well. There's no question that the talent level at EuroBasket surpasses anything other than the NBA.
I can recall all the handwringing as niche TV programming was proliferating. 'We can't possibly have more than a couple sports channels. Where will we get the content?' Well, here's some compelling, world class content, and no one has it. The broadcast rights can't be that expensive. Why isn't someone showing it? Of course they were right about not having enough compelling content for all these channels. Did I mention College Lumbersports? Oh, and these are the regionals, whatever the hell that means. I mean, sure, I would watch the College Lumbersport final four. If only because of the bracket I filled out in the office pool. But the regionals? C'mon!
I understand that my perspective is skewed. I tend to enjoy the basketball more than the next guy. But I'm not the only one, right? And where is NBA-TV in all this? Not that they are carried by ANYONE, but they don't even have these games. Let's see, about 40 NBA players are competing in a major competition for the next couple weeks, and I run a TV network called NBA TV, and training camp for the regular season is still 4 weeks away. I know, let's show highlights from past All Star games! Again. And again.
By the way, former Clipper Marko Jaric and his Serbian team, not long ago the best team in Europe, winners of the World Championship in 2002, were eliminated in the first round today with a loss to Israel. This is not a team that is accustomed to going home after one round.
I wonder if it was a good game.