All across America every Saturday, college football games are won or lost. And all across America every Saturday night or Sunday, college football coaches shows are taped for television. As a casual college football follower and veteran TV viewer, I can only say this: Let the games go on if they must, but someone -- maybe a conscientious athletic director, a chancellor, a station manager or even the president of the United States -- must lock the studios and put a stop to this unprecedented pollution of the public airwaves.
It's one thing for a coach to talk; it's another thing for people to actually listen.
In the Washington area, if you are not careful, you can watch almost two dozen coaches shows every week. Okay, one might say, if you don't want to watch, you don't turn on the TV set. But some of us cannot help ourselves.
Which brings us to the coaches shows, which are infinitely less interesting than games, but seemingly a reasonable alternative to Channel 20's nightly "Love Connection" presentation.
WFTY-TV-50, late night Fridays, presents Maryland, Navy, Army and Air Force coaches shows. It's a two-hour coach-a-thon of sorts, but it does not even begin to compare to the service Home Team Sports provides every week.
Home Team Sports does coaches shows from Maryland, Navy and Army plus West Virginia, James Madison, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina State, Richmond, Notre Dame, East Carolina, William and Mary, Delaware, Michigan, Miami (Fla.) and Temple. That's 21 schools on HTS.
On Thursdays alone, between 5 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., you can see 10 coaches shows on HTS, including every school in the Atlantic Coast Conference. (Where else can you keep up with Georgia Tech's peripatetic Bobby Ross, who, one week, while narrating highlights, said, "We appear to have a reasonably commanding lead at this point" as the score reached 37-6?)
Ingredients for coaches' weekly shows are fairly standard: One head coach. One set of game highlights.One ebullient, golden-throated co-host/shill.
There are few surprises: The Notre Dame show begins and ends with the famed Notre Dame fight song; Fisher DeBerry talks so much on the Air Force program that the show's co-host, John Glenn, looks like a beleaguered psychiatrist; winning coaches emphasize the final score, losing coaches emphasize team play and intensity. Most importantly, every college football coach -- regardless of birthplace, childhood or current place of residence -- speaks with a slight southern twang (Joe Paterno and Jack Bicknell being the significant exceptions to this rule).
The shows, all at 30 minutes, are universally too long. Losing teams don't have enough highlights to fill a 30-minute show; winning teams spend too much time gushing over their success. It is, undoubtedly, harder to do a show after a loss. While Navy Coach Elliot Uzelac and host Jack Cloud one week made their way through film of the Midshipmen getting routed, Uzelac told Cloud, "Now, Jack, I thought you told us this was our highlights."
The shows, naturally, are targeted to each school's supporters. That makes it hard for the rest of us, perhaps, to stomach the unrelenting boosterism exhibited by the co-hosts. These guys make every program seem on the verge of a top-20 breakthrough, and these guys can make a 42-7 loss seem like a closely contested game that simply got a bit out of hand on the scoreboard.
And did we mention the gall of some of these productions? You give a school 30 minutes and a sponsor or two, and it figures it can say and do anything it wants. For instance: The gall of the Maryland show, which is the most blatant in its public relations blitz with a long "Profiles" segment each week centering on an aspect of the campus that has nothing to do with football. The gall of the North Carolina State show, which honors a "Goody's Headache Hit of the Week" award to the player who makes the most bone-crunching tackle or block (often a play that leaves the opponent woozy or injured). The gall of Danny Ford's Clemson show, in which the coach makes only token cameos, appearing at the beginning and close of the program for about 45 seconds total.
But we salute East Carolina Coach Art Baker, who after a 20-10 loss to Illinois, came on his own show with virtually no voice. He realized, of course, that the show must go on -- even if we didn't want to watch it. But, of course, many of us watched it, anyway, if for nothing else, to hear the coach's preview of the Georgia Southern game.