Reflecting on the ESPN College Gameday, Media Circus


There was something surreal Friday about watching the lead story on
the ESPN sports shouting shows (I'd refer to them as sports talk shows,
but they're actually just SHOUTING MATCHES)  from the very exact
location where the lead story originates. I'm speaking of course, about
the Wrigleyville Classic, "Wallgate" and the afternoon hours I spent in the waiting room of the Chicago Cubs front office at WrigleyField.

Joining me was Northwestern student media, the School's Information Department, and the NU Student Ambassador to ESPN Gameday.
(I'm assuming he's granted diplomatic immunity on trips to Champaign)
We, the second city's college football liaisons, watched our hometown
get verbally blasted by PTI and Around the Horn as we waited to interview the College Gameday personalities, including the Queen of all Sports Media, Erin Andrews.

The actual circus, Barnum and Bailey to be exact, is still in town
(Just ask the Bulls and Blackhawks about what's forcing them on crazy
long road trips), but the media circus is now long gone.

I think the smartest opinion on the whole "wallgate" controversy
belonged to the main host of ESPN College Gameday himself, Chris Fowler.

"It's obviously a strange situation, I think it's bizarre the Big Ten
kind of at the 11 1/2 hour changes course and acts like they just
became aware of it, when the Cubs have noted how they've been aware of
it for a long time," Fowler said.

Agreed. If the NCAA has a zero tolerance policy about all walls must
be at least 6 feet from the back of the end zone, why didn't they know
this when they drew up the plans?

They certainly knew on Monday, because the pictures were posted
EVERYWHERE on the internet. Yet it took until Friday morning to pull the
trigger on the decision? No wonder conspiracy theories abound.

"It sounds like the public and media outcry has forced them to act on
it very late in the game. I think it's one of those quirky things that
will make it all the more unique. I don't view it as embarrassing or
scandalous, really I don't. You do what you have to do and it's hard to
argue against the safety of the players," Fowler continued.

I agree with him, I thought the critics were really over-blowing the
situation. Jim Rome made one funny joke about the situation, and then
ran it into the ground by repeating the same joke over and over again.
Once the game started, no one even noticed or cared about using the same
end zone.

Fowler grew up in nearby Rockford and also added that he spent his 6-12th birthdays attending Cubs games.


The Gameday Experience Itself

Those rascally college kids were at it again. Boys will be boys.
Usually I hate the unoriginality and pandering of network acronym signs,
but this one was obviously a bit "colorful." This homage to NU's new
starting QB was not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Last
year, someone basically sexually harassed Erin Andrews with this sign;
which also used that word you can't say on television. Gameday host Lee
Corso, a Cicero native and long time Indiana Hoosiers coach, also
coached the father of Evan Watkins at NIU.

There were other funny signs including:

"Northwestern football: 95% grad rate, 100% ownership of Iowa"

"NU grads earn more $ than SEC Recruits"

"Fire Demos" (wtf? he's a college kid, yes I know he was a preseason
candidate for the Lou Groza award, and he's had a really terrible year,
but c'mon he's just a college placekicker)

"Educated Sports fans Prefer Northwestern"

"the Illini get Persa-cuted"

the obligatory "Fire Ron Zook"

"Home teams in Wrigley are losers: go Illini"

a gravestone for the east end zone

a Cubs logo spelling Cats and colored purple

and another "Persa for Heisman 2011"

All in all, you can't buy publicity like this for the program. When
Mr. Cub Ernie Banks joins the Cubs organist to play your fight song
outside Wrigley Field on national television, you've done your marketing
homework, and you earned a A+ on the test. And marketing was my
specialization in MBA school, so I know what I'm talking about.

The fan breakdown was 60-40 NU in the stadium for this "Northwestern
home game" at a neutral site, but like 95-5 Illini on the neighboring
rooftops. The Illini contingent for the Gameday broadcast was
exceedingly weak, but the NU fans really came out strong and passionate.
Northwestern showed the nation how much they loved their sports. And
for one day at least, the NU-ILL rivalry had a Cubs-Sox, North
side-South side kind of feel.

And from a media standpoint- You know how in rural Texas the whole
town shuts down whenever there's a game? And every single person gathers
in exactly one spot? Exactly like Stanley Cup Media Day in June or the
Winter Classic last year.

And all around I was impressed by what people wrote, produced, and broadcasted.

Hell, I had my second highest traffic day ever on Friday, my highest
Saturday of traffic in history, and greatest week ever by a very long
shot. So I think we should do this more often!

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports , a Midwest webzine. He's also a regular contributor to the Tribune's Chicago Now network, Walter, Yardbarker Network, and Fox

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank



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  • no one was allowed on the field after the game! except those who can sport the name on the credential I photographed. take a closer look at the name on it...JUICE like Tropicana in this town

  • I also have no idea why Todd Ricketts just decided to leave his credential, and bag just lying around in a random row at Wrigley Field...but I guess if you're a Ricketts, you just leave all your stuff lying around in public because you know you're so powerful no one can mess with you! hahahahah

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