Bob Valvano is a weekend overnight host for ESPN Radio. While not quite a nationally recognized name like his more famous weekday counterparts, Valvano's work has recieved national plaudits. In the clip below, you can see why Valvano is a respected voice in an industry that too often gives the top real estate to the loudest and most controversial.
During the week, Valvano hosts a radio show on ESPN 680 in Louisville. After the Cardinals upset the Florida Gators in Louisville, Valvano unleashed on the lack of repsect given Louisville not before the game, but after the game, especially by his counterparts at ESPN.
Valvano was incensed with the way ESPN analysts and the media-at-large tried to make excuses for Florida, claiming they somehow weren't ready to play the game. Nobody could seemingly admit Louisville may have actually been better than Florida because it didn't fit the SEC-Big East narrative. Granted, Louisville is Valvano's home market, but never have I so totally agreed with a radio rant like this one. And honestly, calling it a rant is doing it a disservice. The clip is quite lengthy (40 minutes), but it's as well reasoned and articulated as an argument as you can give regarding the larger issues affecting the media and college football. Valvano touches on it all - from the groupthink with regards to the SEC, ESPN analysts like Kirk Herbstriet refusing to admit when they are wrong, to the convoluted system of preseason rankings, the presence of 35 bowl games, and the sport protecting the powerful. This is as good as sports talk radio gets. I'd encourage you listening to the entire thing, but if you don't have the time, some of Valvano's highlights are quoted below.
"I have a lot of respect for Kirk Herbstreit, but over the last couple months the stuff that's coming out of his mouth is so preposterous, because he played and I didn't I guess he's got to have more credibility, just the most ridiculous things I've ever heard."
"The three hardest words for analysts to string together are 'I was wrong.'"
"What were they looking at to determine they weren't trying? The first play of the game they almost knocked Teddy across the Louisiana border? What are they talking about? Just because it serves your own theory… just have the guts to stand up there and say I was wrong."
"You must disparage the Big East at every opportunity, you must pray at the altar of the SEC, and I understand how good the SEC is, but you then must also look for opportunities to show your fair minded. Teddy Bridgewater is the passport to that right now. The media, the herd has decided we can talk about that."
"The system is already so convoluted to make sure that the teams with the money and the power protect their turf that even when fair and square one of them gets beat they can't accept it."
"If they don't want the bowl games the way they are, then they need to step back from the table. Because Bob, the reason there are 35 bowl games is because of ESPN."
"I was in the meeting room when they said, because we make money on the BBVA Compass Bowl and the GoDaddy Bowl. They're not doing it because they love football, they're doing it for a business decision. If you're going to come up with this system, don't apologize away. How could you tell us this game is so significant and then explain away why a team didn't play well because they weren't ready to play it. It's not a legitimate excuse."
"They have a vested interest in the SEC."
"Behind closed doors the executives at ESPN clearly have a more vested business interest in the SEC… but I will tell you this, other than if it's a possible lawsuit, they never tell their on-air talent what opinion to take."
"Are these guys perfect, is that what they think? It's offensive to me as a guy who does it and as a fan because that's the whole point of playing the damn game you jackass is to actually have the result of the game come out on the field and not in the debate room. It's infuriating and the part that bothers me the most is that college football perpetuates that culture more than any sport in the country."
"Instead of celebrating it, we had to listen to a bunch of jackwads try and explain away why it happens and that ticks me off."
Hearing an ESPN Radio host so publicly call out Kirk Herbstreit, Mike Greenberg, and David Pollack isn't something you see every day. You can certainly question their analysis and their protection of the Florida Gators, and indirectly the SEC, in this case. The key point is not that ESPN's on-air analysts are saying what the corporate suits are directly instructing them to do so, though. Rather, the network's perceived protection of the conference and Florida is a product of a groupthink, herd mentality that plagues the media as a whole. (It just so happens that this groupthink is very beneficial to ESPN's corporate interests.)
Valvano's comments point to a huge issue that plagues sports analysis in 2013. Results are less meaningful than the narrative. When the latter should be constructed around the former, it always seems to be the other way around. Florida beats Louisville, fine, Florida is the much stronger team playing in a much stronger conference. Louisville beats Florida comprehensively, well, it must be because Florida wasn't ready or couldn't get up for the game.
But when you break down the narrative as expertly as Valvano did, you see that it routinely falls apart. Florida wasn't ready to play Louisville? Then why does ESPN hype the Sugar Bowl as one of the bowls that "actually matter." Nowhere is this problem more evident than college football, where championships are won with polls, media coverage, and reputation. As Valvano said so well, the whole point of playing the game is to actually have the result come out on the field and not the debate room.
he hit the nail on the head. the sec is the best conference. but do you still have to play the games. if it was up to espn and other college football pundits. alabama and notre dame would be voted into the national title game EVERY year.
As a Cincinnati fan, I am regularly disgusted by this issue of biased respect. In 2009, we were blown out by a Florida team led by Tim Tebow in the Sugar Bowl after our coaches left for Notre Dame and we were left with a playbook designed by grad assistants. Make no mistake, even with Brian Kelly, Florida was clearly the better team period.
However the narrative following that game and ever since has centered around "Cincinnati did not deserve to be there". Here's what pisses me off: because we had a bad loss in that game, we didn't deserve to be there. But when Notre Dame lost to Alabama this Monday, in an absolutely embarrassing blowout, it was because Alabama was a power house.
Sure I am biased, but it's insulting to be given so little respect for great achievements throughout our recent seasons, but so much disrespect for a few failures. It's just wrong.
As another Cincinnati fan I also like how we were ranked close to 40th in the country at the beginning of that 09 season, with a few "experts" saying we would finish 5th in the Big East that year. I don't believe we would have beat Alabama that year, but we had just as much reason to be in the Natl Champ game as Texas. We went outside our conference and played Oregon State on the road (who ended up losing to Oregon in the PAC 10 title game). What did Texas have to show that was better than that? Nothing but their past, which is repeatedly discovered as crap (e.g. Notre Dame this year). Hell you could argue that Notre Dame this year was no better than 20 other teams in the top 25.
Right on Bobby Vee ... if there is one thing that big-time college football encourages, through ESPN and other like-minded outlets, it's endless debate about who is supposed to be the best. The last thing you ever want to do is settle who is the best on the field. Everyone gets to be a champion. You make more money creating and facilitating the endless bitching about who OUGHT to be number one, than actually deciding who is number one on the field !!
First off, I'll say props to Louisville because no one gave them a chance.
While I dislike ESPN's coverage of SEC football due to oversaturation, I think pretty much anyone who follows college football will agree that it has some of the best teams in the country. I've always argued that it's top-heavy, but when you have a conference with 6 10-win teams this year (Bama, LSU, UGA, USC, T A&M, UF), that shows you how much talent is there.
With that being said, and considering the competition they faced this year, Florida should have been favored coming into the game against Louisville. I'm not an SEC apologist in the slightest (I went to Virginia Tech and trust me, I'm realistic about the ACC's football credibility), but Florida was not prepared for that game for whatever reason.
Louisville had a good team this year, but does anyone think they win 11 games in the SEC? They had something to prove in the Sugar Bowl and kicked the Gators in the mouth. I was happy to see them do it too, since I hate hearing about the dominance of the SEC. But when you examine it on your own without the bias of media, it's not hard to see why ESPN talks so much about the conference. Every time someone else has a chance to challenge the status quo of SEC dominance, they can't follow through (I'm looking at you KSU and Oregon).
The Same thing can be said about how ESPN was hyping the BCS National Championship game this year too!!!
The Game of the Century- #1 Notre Dame undefeated VS #2 defending National Champion Alabama!
Was it the Game of the Century???
It wasn't even close to The Game of the Century!
It was closer to the Worst BCS National Championship ever!!!
In my mind Notre Dame only made the BCS National Championsip Game this year because they were undefeated, even though they had some lucky bounces and barely won 4 games that they should have lost during the Regular Season this year against a good teams in the Stanford Cardinals who they beat 20-13 in Overtime and in their bitter Big Ten rival the Michigan Wolverines 13-6, but they also just barely beat a a 7-6 BYU Cougars team 17-14 and a 7-6 Pittsburgh Panthers team 29-26 in Triple Overtime in a game they won super close to losing!
What makes thing even worse was that NBC added a show to their schedule called Undefeated: 2012 Notre Dame football season in review in December and had the 2 Notre Dame specials that aired on NBC and reairs of 4 of the 7 Notre Dame Home ganes on NBC Sports Network on New Year's Day and not only that they also sent College Football studio host Liam Mchugh on the road to Miami for NBC Sports talk and the Lights on Wednesday January 2nd-Friday January 4th, He also hosted Pregame and Halftime coverage of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the High School Football All-Star game from the road in Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida and an interview he conducted with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish's head coach Brian Kelly also aired on NBC on Saturday January 5th, he also provided frequent live reports from Sun Life Stadium throughout the afternoon and NBC Sportstalk was dedicated to coverage of the BCS National Championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide VS Notre Dame Fighting Irish with Liam Mchugh, Doug Flutie and other special guests live from Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida yesterday on Monday Janurary 7th on the NBC Sports Network and not only that but normally joining Liam Mchugh for NBC Sports Network's coverag of the BCS Championship Game from Miami, Florida this year were Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports and Keith Arnold NBCSports.Com's Notre Dame insider!
I remember when I was in high school watching Kansas State play a Drew Brees-led Purdue in the Alamo Bowl. K-State at the tailend of that year was going to be the undefeated #3 team left out of the national title game. A lot of whining as you might expect on the unfairness of it all. Well low and behold before the Big 12 title game, one of the other undefeateds lost, and so K-State just had to win the Big 12 title game and then they were in the national championship. Nope, they lost. Bowls were scared of the letdown factor and so they fell all the way to the Alamo Bowl. Purdue that year were exciting to watch with Brees but were 4th or 5th in the Big 10. On paper, if K-State showed up they would win easy. Game's back and forth, two minutes to go K-State score the go-ahead touchdown. Announcers say that K-State would show up and play and not go down so easy. Brees leads Purdue on a miraculous drive where they score in only a minute and take back the lead with something like 30 seconds to go. I remember the commentators shifting their commentary to something like "well, it must've been hard for them after not making the national title game". Dear God...
Wow, great rant Bob. It refreshing to hear someone, especially an espn employee, actually come out and say whate everybody has been thinking. Sure hope there are no repercusions for his freedom of speech.