The ratings are in for the BCS National Championship Game and... well, they're about as ugly as the game was Monday night. The rematch between LSU and Alabama drew a 13.8 overnight rating on ESPN, which was the worst in the history of the BCS title game. It eclipses the dreadful Miami/Nebraska game from 2002, which was another game that had questionable circumstances surrounding the arbitrary selection of one of the participants. Ratings were sure to be weakened with plenty of fans loathing the prospects of a rematch and were sure to continue going down as LSU didn't even get across midfield till the 4th quarter.
Let's face it, Monday's snoozer was an awful game to watch. I've stood in DMV lines that were more exciting than the 2012 BCS National Championship Game. This was like watching a Kris Humphries reality show without the Kardashians. We suffered through five more Alabama field goals and had to wait almost the entire length of the game for a touchdown to be scored. LSU had 534 yards FEWER offense than the Saints put up in the same building two days prior.
And then you had Brent Musburger doing his best to make the previously awesome "Honey Badger" nickname totally unusable for the rest of time. (Although the "Jesus Christ Lizard" is still available for Tim Tebow in case you were wondering.) The only redeeming aspect of the game was seeing Bruce Feldman make ESPN airwaves without getting blurred out and then listening to Bobby Hebert rant at Les Miles during the postgame press conference.
(Is this a good time to mention my first ever Halloween costume was a mini Bobby Hebert Saints uniform? Unfortunately, I don't remember giving people a possibly drunken 48 second diatribe for only giving me pennies and Sweet Tarts. I was 4, cut me some slack.)
Obviously, the entire BCS shift to cable explains much of the drop compared to pre-2011. Even though ESPN is in 100 million homes, there's still less viewers to go around on cable. And, even though the numbers across the BCS are down from last year, BCS games are still major winners in the ratings compared to other cable programs as they were three of the five highest rated shows this past week.
But the decline from 2010 to 2011 is still worrisome for the BCS, which makes me absolutely giddy because bad news for the BCS is good news for us...
The most alarming statistic may be the entire five game BCS package being down 13% compared to last year, when the games were also on cable. The Orange Bowl blowout between West Virginia and Clemson was the lowest rated BCS game of all-time. Yea, WVU scored about 735 points in that game, but did anyone outside those two campuses have any interest in watching beforehand? I'm willing to bet that even a close game would have drawn an abysmal number. In fact, only the Fiesta Bowl between Oklahoma State and Stanford went up in the ratings from last year.
The bottom line is fan frustration with the BS of the BCS is finally carrying over and hitting the BCS where it hurts. Finally, the momentum for a 4 team playoff is fully taking shape. (I despise the "Plus One" name as it still clings to the antequated bowl system - it's a playoff plain and simple.) We can only hope that the 4 team playoff leads to an 8 team playoff and then a 16 team playoff and the end of the BCS sooner rather than later.
But if you listen to the ringmaster of this circus, BCS Hypocrite In-Chief Executive Director Bill Hancock, that ain't happening anytime soon...
“Whatever we do we have to protect the regular season. I think the larger the playoff field the more damage to the regular season.”
Oh that's right, because Alabama going 1-1 against LSU this year "protects the regular season." How convenient. Those Bama shirts that say the Tide won the game that counted really protects the regular season and falls in line with the official @EveryGameCounts BCS Twitter handle. I'm guessing you won't see that little factoid in any quotes from Mr. Hancock. Actually, if we're going on body of work for the entire season, maybe LSU deserved the AP trophy because they beat the Rose Bowl champs, Cotton Bowl champs, and BCS title game champs after all. Just more nonsense to consider in the ultimate of nonsensical systems.
"Protecting the regular season" is one of the biggest and most laughable myths in not just sports, but American society. Was it protecting the regular season when Michigan and Virginia Tech were selected by the Sugar Bowl above more deserving teams because they could sell tickets? Did '01 Nebraska protect the regular season? Is continuing to diss non-BCS schools protecting the regular season? Please. If the four team playoff is voted in, it will only be because the BCS tycoons see more of a profit and a rebound in ratings.
ESPN is in an interesting situation with how they cover the BCS in the coming months and the discussion of the four team playoff. ESPN is business partners with the BCS. Can they objectively cover the proposed changes to the system? Will we see pointed criticism of the BCS system from the network that televises the games? It's an interesting, yet complicated spot for the network to be in considering the future of the BCS is as uncertain as it has been in years.
If this year is any indicator, maybe we're finally on the verge of at least seeing something better than the terrible system we have to endure at the moment. Perhaps we'll look back at Alabama-LSU Part Deux as a turning point for the fundamental changing of the BCS and the bowl system. With viewers tuning away from the BCS, bowl attendances going down, solid momentum for a four team playoff, and one of the least watchable championship games in history... perhaps we've finally reached enough of a critical mass for the birth of a college football playoff.
After all, it's always darkest before the dawn...