Phil Caldwell

Sports Blogging With a Grin

Washington vs. Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl and ESPN’s Pathetic Coverage

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With anxious Washington Husky and Nebraska Cornhusker fans bouncing off the walls at homes across the west, giddy with excitement for the opening kickoff of the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl in San Diego, ESPN’s broadcast was nowhere to be found.
They were too busy covering the Franklyn American Mortgage Company’s Music City Bowl from Nashville, Tennessee.

For what seemed to be months last night, ESPN made the Holiday Bowl fans wait, staying with the Music City Bowl on two separate cable TV channels on Comcast. And on the other two ESPN channels was a women’s college basketball game between UConn and Stanford.

None of us Holiday Bowl fans really cared all that much about the Music City Bowl, nor the women’s basketball game.  But that didn’t matter to the crack ESPN network team!

So we all waited patiently for the game we gathered to see, to be broadcast by ESPN.

In house parties and bars across the mid and northwest.

And we waited some more.  And then some more.

Fifteen minutes after what should have been the start of the Holiday Bowl telecast, Washington Husky and Nebraska Cornhusker fans patiently waited for their game.


Unfortunately for Holiday Bowl fans, North Carolina got what appeared to be an undeserved break with one second left, and quickly converted that to a field goal to tie that game and send it into overtime.

ESPN, being the devoted network loyal to their viewers, was not about to cut away from that Music City Bowl game at such an important moment. Because ESPN cares about their viewers!

Or at least the ones east of the Mississippi.

Sideline analysis about “the hit” carried on for dozens of minutes, featuring several hundred replays from different angles. A North Carolina Tar Heel got his clock cleaned by a Tennessee Volunteer defensive back.

Cool play, but nobody really cared about it out west.

What we did care about was the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, between the feared Nebraska Cornhuskers dressed in white with red pants, and the Washington Huskies donning their all-black uniforms for only the second time ever.

Nevertheless, ESPN continued with the Music City Bowl coverage.

As ESPN reviewed more shots of replays we’d already seen a dozen times, Husky and Cornhusker fans were beginning to suspect that the Holiday Bowl game might not be a high priority at ESPN.


Especially when they continued showing the same replays again after that. And again, as Holiday Bowl fans realized they were missing the first quarter of the game they actually cared about.

Ten more minutes passed, then 15, and then 20. House parties across the states of Washington and Nebraska wondered why those idiots at ESPN were not showing their game on another channel, or at least doing a split screen for crying out loud?!?

At about this time, a few fortunate Holiday Bowl fans were discovering something else to kill the time with. On another cable TV channel, they were showing past Saturday Night Live shows. Funny stuff, with skits from old cast members during their best moments.

Good thing too, because a dozen minutes later ESPN was STILL showing the detested Music City Bowl game.

That nobody cared about.

Hey what’s this?  Quickly flipping between the two channels, we accidentally discovered something we wished we had seen earlier.  On the very small ticker tape at the bottom of the screen in tiny print,  was news that the ESPN3 website was showing the game that we had all gathered to see.

So as ESPN droned on and on with replays and highlights from the North Carolina vs Tennessee game, a small laptop computer was located and set up, in the middle of the room of about 30 people at our party.


A tiny little screen too, that we might be able to convert to the larger screen if someone could find the right chord.

We’d worry about that later. Just get the Holiday Bowl game up already.

After fiddling to get the computer turned on, with grumbling Holiday Bowl fans getting cranky, we located the ESPN3 website.

The slow computer kept hanging and freezing up at various sub-sites off of ESPN3.

Finally after more verbal abuse, the screen was navigated to the proper place with agitated Holiday Bowl fans getting more and more impatient. But sadly all were treated to a jittery and blurry feed of the game.

But at least it was the one we cared about, even though it was a frozen screen that only moved once every dozen seconds.

Which lasted about five minutes before the computer completely locked up the video feed for good.

Havoc and mayhem broke out midst the faithful. Objects and paraphernalia could be seen hitting walls.

Patrons discussed options of bodily abuse, which they would commit against whichever ESPN dimwit was making these idiot broadcast decisions.


Meanwhile back on cable TV, it finally appeared that the dreaded North Carolina vs Tennessee game (that nobody cared about) was winding down.

But what’s this? Husky and Cornhusker fans were re-directed to a fresh scene, but not the one we wanted.

This time it was a tanned and relaxed Lou Holtz, sitting at a large sports desk with several other ESPN nimrods, discussing the same replays.  A huge ESPN announcer debate broke out that lasted half a dozen more minutes.

Afterwards Lou and the team shared home movies of their recent vacations.

Husky and Cornhusker fans sobbed uncontrollably, wondering why these pinheads at ESPN refused to show their game??

After what seemed several months of post game Music City Bowl analysis (that nobody cared about), ESPN reluctantly decided to broadcast the Holiday Bowl.

Can you believe it?!?

Highly efficient ESPN announcers immediately reminded viewers just joining them (as if that was our fault), that the University of Washington Huskies had been 0-12 several years earlier and had been pummeled by the Nebraska Cornhuskers earlier this season.


Nebraska fans felt gypped to be playing in this bowl. The Huskies were lucky to be here.

Meanwhile delighted west coast fans quickly abandoned the Saturday Night Live reruns upon discovering that ESPN was actually covering the game they were supposed to have on an hour earlier.  Scattered guests hurriedly rushed back to living room screens.

That same hapless and undeserving Husky team was astonishing the masses.  They were playing in a way nobody could have predicted! The University of Washington held a ten point lead with 12 minutes left in the second quarter!

Nobody knew how they got that lead.

And yet Nebraska was driving. Nebraska QB Kyler Reed hit receiver Taylor Martinez at the front left corner of the end zone, just beyond the fingertips of several diving Huskies. It finished a ten play 74 yard drive with just over six minutes left in the second quarter.

Suddenly it was a scant 10-7 Husky lead!

Hey wait just a minute here! Unexpectedly ESPN broke away from Holiday Bowl coverage to bring us the stunning news, that the Stanford women were about to break UConn’s 90 game win streak!

That not a single one of us gave a rip about!


From the same game, mind you, that was being broadcast on not one, but TWO other ESPN channels on Comcast.

You would think that ESPN executives might have reasoned, that if someone had actually been interested in that women’s basketball game, they probably already would have been watching it? On ESPN2, on two separate places on Comcast devoted entirely to that game.

You would think.

Nope. Holiday Bowl fans were forced to watch another half dozen minutes of that women’s game, including a replay of the entire last minute.

With ESPN commentary afterwards, of what shocking news this was!

That none of us cared about.

Meanwhile as all four of their Comcast cable channels were focused on the women’s basketball game, exactly ZERO channels were showing us the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl from San Diego, that we had all gathered to see.

Flabbergasted house guests were now hurling bricks and chairs, as excited ESPN announcers showed replays of the final minute of that women’s game that nobody gave a flying ……….

When announcers finally ran out of things to say, they promised to return us to the Holiday Bowl.

But first this important commercial word from Cialis. Two naked retirees in side by side bathtubs grossed us all out for another four minutes, as we missed the game.

After several more announcements, ESPN cut back to replays mid-action, showing a missed ref call for what should have been a helmet to helmet hit on Jake Locker.

Plus several other mutilations of Husky receivers by Nebraska defenders, impeding their progress on sideline routes without being flagged.

Which of course ESPN announcers mentioned only in passing, like a mom pointing out a pretty house, on a Sunday afternoon drive with her bored kids.

Meanwhile back at the Holiday Bowl, Sark and Holt were throwing tantrums to astounded referees.

ESPN missed all of this too, because they were busy discussing the recent weather in Southern California, including mud slides, and how it had left the turf at the Holiday Bowl soiled and muddy.

Oh and by the way, the Huskies were 0-12 several years prior, and probably didn’t deserve to be playing in this game.


Something they had mentioned moments before they cut to the women’s game.

They mentioned it again several minutes later.

But in a miraculous change of events, that would be the last time ESPN broke away from covering the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl in San Diego, played at Qualcomm Field.

The Washington Huskies would go on to upset the Nebraska University Cornhuskers 19-7.  It would give Washington Husky fans something to cheer about, this late in a season, for the first time since the 2002 Rose Bowl.

Several shots were shown of smiling Husky fans on the field and with coach Sark, before quickly returning us to the ESPN studios, where discussion immediately focused on the Music City Bowl.

The game where too many men had been on the field, on that last play that led to the field goal, that sent it into overtime.

“Here, let’s take a look at the replay.”



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