NFL Network vs. Big Ten Network in the dead zone

July 3, 2009

Slow doesn’t begin to describe this time of year for college athletics and the NFL. Having covered both for a significant period of time, I can tell you everyone associated with the NFL is on vacation during the July 4 holiday. Likewise, college officials usually are as far from campus as possible.

It’s only reasonable to expect two networks exclusively televising pro football or college athletics to struggle for relevant programming this time of year. To examine this, I went through the entire television schedule of both the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network beginning with Sunday, June 28 and ending on July 4. Here are my observations.

Both networks repeat programming the same way Clear Channel recycles songs and news stories on the radio. The Big Ten Network repeated programming 45 times during this week. That includes four telecasts of “Big Ten Legends: Lloyd Carr” and four airings of the 2009 Big Ten men’s tennis tournament. The NFL Network is much, much worse. It replayed its programming 90 times during the seven-day period.

The Big Ten Network is required to show campus programming, and this is the perfect time of year to do so. There were three airings of Purdue’s “Boiler Bytes,” and Northwestern’s “Student Concerto Competition.” Iowa varied its campus programming with shows on vitality, sustainability and “Getting Ready for the Boom.” I presume that’s a euphemism for the alarm clock to wake us from that programming, but I digress.

The Big Ten Network has done a good job of trying to shake up its replays by instituting campus-specific programming on different days. There have been (and will be again on July 12) Iowa days when the network airs past games in which Iowa was victorious.

During this sample week, the Big Ten Network devoted a day for Wisconsin. The programming included a 1999 Rose Bowl victory, a big basketball win against Maryland in 2000 and the annual hockey grudge match against Minnesota. There also was campus programming on the common cold (aahh-chew), international relations (is this the fishing zone between the U.S. and Canada?) and the mind of a psychopath (Wisconsin’s own Jeffrey Dahmer?).

On July 4, the BTN will air the league’s greatest football games of 2008, plus other football-related programming. Good move. Overall, it was a decent week for the network, which slowly is building its resume as one of the better sports networks on television.

The NFL Network is the reigning repeat champion. No other network outside of Headline News repeats its programming more than the NFL Network. It’s a shame because the NFL Network has so much potential.

During the June 28-July 4 sample week, the NFL Network was fairly predictable, based on past years. Sundays are filled with 90-minute replays from four games during a 2008 weekend From noon Sunday through 6 p.m. Monday, those replays ran 16 times.

The NFL Network’s daily trademark, “Total Access,” is a one-hour news/feature show that airs every weeknight at 6 p.m. Unfortunately, it re-airs and re-airs and re-airs some more. The Monday version aired 10 times. The Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday versions aired 12 times each. That’s way too much programming time to dedicate to one 60-minute show.

The network also re-airs other programming at an alarming rate. Tuesday night, the network showed two 30-minute and one 60-minute episodes of “NFL Game of the Week.” Those shows then re-aired nine more times.

On Monday nights (and usually on the following Saturday), the NFL Network airs a “Classic Game” with its original broadcasters. Unfortunately, many of the classics go back to 2008 or 2007. Since the 1970 merger, there have been 9,061 games NFL games played — 8,680 regular season, 381 postseason.

The NFL Network did schedule a weekend dedicated to its Emmy-winning documentary series “America’s Game.” Beginning at 5 a.m. on July 4, the network will air each episode of its Super Bowl champion series, followed by its “Missing Rings” series. That’s a tremendous idea, but the network should have started it earlier in the week to expose those fans who have yet to see it.

What the NFL Network does, it does well. It just doesn’t do it enough and it is much too repetitive. When Brett Favre returns again expect nothing the network to destroy all of its programming to show his first Packers’ game, the Monday night game following his dad’s death, the Packers’ Super Bowl XXXI win and last year’s Jets-Patriots Thursday night game on NFL Network.  The network did it when he retired, when he un-retired and then when he retired again.


Vikings QB Sage Rosenfels addresses Brett Favre speculation

June 25, 2009
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sage Rosenfels works with young football players at Tim Dwight Football Camp at Iowa City High on Thursday, June 25, 2009, in Iowa City.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sage Rosenfels works with young football players at Tim Dwight Football Camp at Iowa City High on Thursday, June 25, 2009, in Iowa City.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sage Rosenfels almost seems resigned that his team eventually will sign longtime quarterback Brett Favre.

“Well, it hasn’t happened yet, so I don’t know how I’m going to feel at the time,” Rosenfels said Thursday morning at the annual Tim Dwight Football Camp at Iowa City High.

There’s nothing I can do about it. (The Favre speculation is) not helping me get better for the season, so it’s something I try not to pay attention to. It’s not going to help me throw any touchdown passes this year, by me reading the paper every day or being on the Internet every day. I’m just focused on getting myself ready the best I can for the season.”

Minnesota traded a fourth-round pick to Houston this year for Rosenfels, who was expected to compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the Vikings’ starting quarterback position. Speculation has swirled this offseason that Minnesota will sign Favre, which would shift Rosenfels back to reserve status.

 “Tavaris and I — as of right now — are competing for the starting job, and I’m excited for that,” Rosenfels said. “Obviously, I feel like I’m capable of meeting that challenge.”

Rosenfels, a Maquoketa native and former Iowa State quarterback, said Vikings coaches briefly addressed the Favre rumors with the team’s quarterbacks this offseason.

“Just a small discussion that Coach (Brad) Childress discussed with all four quarterbacks,” Rosenfels said. ” But it lasted about a minute and nothing significant.

“There’s only so many things I can control, and I can’t control what coaches and GMs are always doing. All I can really control is how I perform when I’m out there, and how the group around me performs when they’re out there. So that’s my focus is and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Rosenfels, who’s entering his ninth NFL season, has started five games in each of the last two seasons for Houston. Last year he threw for 1,431 yards, six touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He lost two fumbles as well. In 2007, he played in nine games throwing for 1,684 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has started 12 games in his career and thrown for 4,156 yards, 30 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. The Vikings are his fourth NFL team.

Rosenfels often travels between Minneapolis and Houston, where he’s selling his home, and Iowa. It’s kept him busy this offsesason.

“I’ve been back and forth to Iowa a lot and flying back to Houston to see my family a lot,” he said. “It doesn’t give you much time to sit around and mess around online all afternoon. That’s actually a good thing. Keeping busy has been a good thing for me.”


NFL/NBC conspiracy with the Cutler trade?

April 4, 2009
Denver traded quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago this week. The teams meet in Denver during the preseason.

Denver traded quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago this week. The teams meet in Denver during the preseason.

I think we all can acknowledge the Chicago Bears trading for anyone with quarterback Jay Cutler’s pedigree is unprecedented. But is it possible NBC had a hand in the trade as well?

Chicago plays at Denver during the preseason’s third week. That’s known as as the game-planning preseason game where teams prepare like it’s a regular-season game. The starters play as many as three quarters and the level of play shows it.

Before the trade was finalized, the NFL announced NBC would televise the Chicago-Denver preseason game. Granted, both teams have large fan bases, but neither played in the postseason last year.  Seems kind of coincidental that the NFL would schedule them to play a preseason game, let alone ship it to a primary network.

Chicago opens the regular season at Green Bay, which also is televised by NBC as the league’s showcase prime-time match-up. The network slot was announced before the trade. Neither team made the postseason last year, and Brett Favre doesn’t play for Green Bay anymore. It seems kind of coincidental that those teams would meet on NBC when there’s plenty of better teams to choose from.

So, is it a conspiracy or coincidence?

Favre story supercedes “Hail Mary” for NFL Network

August 13, 2008

NFL Network will re-air the 1975 “Hail Mary Game” at an undetermined time after bumping it four times to accommodate breaking news about former Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre.

The network had scheduled the “Hail Mary Game” to air Aug. 4, but bumped it to broadcast Green Bay’s “Family Fun Night” at Lambeau Field. The network then rescheduled the “Hail Mary Game” for Aug. 6, but chose to air two hours of speculation on Brett Favre. The network then planned to air the game twice on Aug. 7, but it was dumped in favor of live press conferences after Favre was traded from Green Bay to the New York Jets.

The “Hail Mary Game” featured the Dallas Cowboys upsetting the Minnesota Vikings in an NFC divisional playoff game. Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach hit wide receiver Drew Pearson on a 50-yard pass with only seconds remaining to earn a 17-14 victory. Vikings fans have maintained Pearson shoved Vikings cornerback Nate Wright before catching the ball and a pass interference penalty wasn’t called. 

“NFL Network provides fans with breaking news whenever it happens,” NFL Network spokesman Dennis Johnson said. “And the major story during this offseason was Brett Favre deciding to come back to play and which team he would end up playing for.”

The NFL Network has chosen to air 54 preseason games this year. It will air Favre’s Jets’ debut live at 6 p.m. Saturday against the Washington Redskins. It will air the Vikings’ preseason game at Baltimore at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

FavreFest continues to dominate NFL Network

July 31, 2008

I paid marginal interest when NFL Network announced its “Classic Games” lineup earlier this summer. As I looked through the list and saw the usual suspects like Marino’s spike in 1994, Favre’s first game, the Music City Miracle, yada, yada, yada, I stopped in my surfing tracks when I saw the 1975 “Hail Mary Game” featuring the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys televised for Aug. 4. Now that’s a game I would love to see.

The old Metropolitan Stadium. The Purple People Eaters. Roger Staubach and the Doomsday Defense. What a great idea. There were so many great players, great teams and great dynasties during the 70s. I actually wrote down the date.

Well, in true NFL Network fashion, it appears the network once again has deviated from its schedule to show the latest episode of “FavreFest.” The NFL Network will show a two-hour Green Bay Packers practice that night instead of re-airing the “Hail Mary Game.”  The network frequently shifts its schedule to accommodate news and air programs that accompany new developments. That made sense when Brett Favre retired and the network aired some of his greatest games over that March weekend. Now, the network is drowning in “FavreFest” with news and programming directed entirely at the (soon-to-be-ex) Green Bay quarterback.

People deservedly direct jabs at The History Channel, calling it the “Hitler” Channel. The NFL Network runs into the same comparisons with its daily dose of St. Brett. Germany produced millions of wonderful people over thousands of years before Hitler destroyed the legacy of the country with his twisted terror. The History Channel has yet to realize that. Likewise, the NFL and the Green Bay Packers existed long before Brett Favre wore No. 4 in Wisconsin. The NFL Network should understand that as well.