Open Letter of Apology to the Big Ten Network
Dear Big Ten Conference (51% owners of the BTN):
I'll admit when I first learned you were forming a first of its breed TV network a few years ago I couldn’t help but laugh myself silly. Not a chuckle, but one of those uncontrollable laughs where when you finally stop, you think about it again and the laughter starts all over. You were launching the network in the fall of 2007, the season after you bemoaned how Ohio State and Michigan were clearly the nation’s two best teams and pandered to the BCS to stage a rematch for the National Championship, even though neither team had remotely proven a thing in non-conference play. You seemed to believe it was unfathomable that a one loss Florida team deserved to be in the same stadium, much less play the invincible OSU. Likewise, a gritty Michigan would almost be taking a step down to accept a Rose Bowl bid to play USC, but nonetheless the Wolvies would be good sports and resolve to show the BCS the error of its ways by taking care of business in Pasadena. After the dust settled from two of the most unapologetic beatings in bowl history, your conference had laid one of its infamous 2 - 5 bowl record eggs. Then, the next thing I knew you were already back on the high horse and lamenting the absurdity of how the most storied and respected conference in college football didn’t have its own proprietary TV network.
Of course, I wasn’t alone in laughing. Comcast, Direct TV, and Dish were in stitches when you insisted they add your network to their basic packages, so every subscriber would get it gratis, but then you were not willing to pony up any cash to make it worth the service provider’s while. Their reward would come from being bestowed the privilege of airing random Big Ten sports 24 hours a day; something along the honor lines of being asked to be the ring bearer at the Royal Wedding.
Then, when you actually pulled it off my laughter quickly turned to disgust and disdain. I fiercely hated you but couldn’t escape you. It was bad enough before your network came along that every Saturday for years I couldn’t scroll the cable menu without seeing your games monopolize ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and later, ESPNU. You see, I’m a Nebraska Cornhusker follower and I would have to pay anywhere from $10 to $30 to watch a ranked NU play another ranked team, but it didn’t matter if I was in Chicago, Philadelphia, L.A., or New York, I could always see Ohio State play hapless Minnesota or Michigan play Western Michigan for free. I remember days during the conference slate where I could get every single one of your teams’ games on national TV and none of them were even remotely relevant to the National Title hunt. At best, I could occasionally see Indiana knock-off Iowa, which I’ll admit did crack me up a few times, but don’t let that dilute my message about the abject hatred I had for you. I lamented why having the entire ABC / ESPN monolith in your back pocket wasn’t enough for you. Here I was catching flack at home for dropping another $14.99 on ESPN Game Plan while simultaneously being forced to see a brand new item on the cable menu for BTN, wasting yet even more bandwidth on more meaningless Big Ten games. For a relatively sane and mild-mannered guy, you created my fall and winter demons. My favorite dream became the one where I somehow acquire a laser-guided rocket launcher and could shoot your satellites out of the sky like a video game, but with every waking Saturday the harsh reality was well, too real.
Then recently, as you may have noticed, Nebraska joined your conference. A move that put some distance between NU and an even more arrogant and entitled organization than yours called Texas. Texas thinks they invented football and even though they’ve only won 5 conference titles over the past 30 - 40 odd years, Texas feels it can and should dictate every facet of how the game is played. Anyway, so I’m living in Chicago and since Nebraska is for some odd reason playing the Mocs of UT-Chattanooga, I began my annual ritual of lowering my expectations of finding a practical option for watching the game at home, because it would surely cost an absurd $30 or $40 on PPV. Then I read somewhere that not only was your network going to carry this scrimmage, it was going to carry every NU game that wasn’t going to be shown on ABC or ESPN. I raised an eye-brow, but still felt there must be a catch and I’d still somehow get hosed because of regional bias the same way I always did by ABC. Sure enough, the main BTN channel will be airing Illinois vs. Arkansas State in my region. So, with a sigh I began my next dreaded exercise of figuring out how much I would get fleeced to rent your BTN equivalent of ESPN Game Plan. In something that sounded akin to Larry the Cable Guy’s Disney/Pixar alter ego Tow Mater, I believe I exclaimed “HOWLY SHOOT” when I discovered that you had also invented and ingeniously named something called “Extra Football Channels” which will always air the second BTN game being played at the same time...for free. Worst of all cases, if my cable carrier doesn’t have the snappy “Extra Football Channels” the games will always be streamed online at BTN2GO.com...free.
In short, I’m pretty sure I’ve discovered that because of you I will never again have a problem getting a Husker game at home, much less ever have to do the “do I ?- or - don’t I ?” dance of guilt as I debate pushing the PPV “buy” button on my remote. In fact, it appears you will advance NU's TV coverage to levels it probably should have achieved five, maybe ten years ago and you're not going to believe the demand you're about to get from Husker fans in regions where your network is not yet carried. So Big Ten Conference, based on my latest revelations about you and your TV Network, I just wanted to say I regret laughing so hard at you a few years back, I feel bad that I truly despised your very existence, and forget that whole thing I said about wishing I could shoot your satellites out of the sky.
Stay the Same!
From your BFF,
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