Wednesday, November 21, 2007

LD, If You Wonder Why Michigan-Ohio State is Hyped by ESPN...

Here is your answer. For the second straight year, Michigan-Ohio State was the highest rated regular season college football game. (And for people who think that college football's lack of a playoff is an unmitigated disaster, find me a regular season game from the MLB or NBA that comes close to a 6.4.)

Reading Sports Media Watch this year has been fairly illuminating for me. The biases of ESPN make more sense when one reviews the ratings and sees that, yes, Michigan and Ohio State do draw higher ratings than other teams. Similarly, the Yankees and Red Sox draw banner ratings when they play one another. ESPN drives me absolutely crazy when they focus all of their attention of the Yanks and Sox, but in the rational part of my brain, I have to tell myself that they are simply giving their customers what they want.


LD said...

So what's the chicken and what's the egg?

Are the ratings for OSU-Michigan high because it's incessantly hyped (inflating the numbers), or is the game hyped because it will garner high ratings (and even greater with more hype)?

I don't know the answer to this - and there's no real control group we can use to figure it out.

Michael said...

I've wondered that before: how much effect does the hyping have? I don't think the effect is too great because I don't really think that the media can have a major effect on whether people want to watch games. Ultimately, the product determines whether people watch. As you say, there's no good way to determine it.

Anonymous said...

I think Ohio State-Michigan numbers are helped by the relative lack of passion for cfb in Big Ten country. There is enough interest to watch the big games, and enough knowledge to recognize the big games, or at least the games labeled as such by the talking heads.

Casual fans thus tune in to see the hype, even if the hype is for a team with a C- offense clubbing a team that lost to a 1-AA and never really made up for it. To a Big Ten fan, they are still the tallest guys in the room, and the casual fans don't know enough about the sport to notice that the room is full of midgets.

There are more discerning football viewers in SEC country, as well as more devoted fans in general. Alabama and Auburn may be a huge game, but I'm not going to watch one second of it if it conflicts with a South Carolina game. Hundreds of thousands of fans across the Southeast share the same devotion to their team. I'm also not going to watch two boring and/or mediocre teams play, even if they really dislike each other.

I've seen at least the Ohio State-Michigan level of intensity in a rivalry, so the passion alone will not pique my interest. People who generally need a bucket or oversized ax to remind them the local football team is playing a "rivalry" game haven't experienced it, so they tune in to see the fuss. If ESPN spent a year hyping Alabama-Auburn, they could get similar numbers among casual fans.

Or maybe this was just a long way to paraphrase Moe Szyslak. Call this an unfair generalization if you must, but Big Ten fans are no good at everything.

Michael said...

To quote Bill Lumbergh, I'm gonna have to disagree with you there. While passion for college football isn't quite the same in the Midwest as it is in the South, it's pretty close. The Big Ten is close in terms of attendance. Ohio State fans are as crazy as any in the SEC. Penn State fans come close. Michigan fans show up in droves, although they tend not to be as fire-breathing as Ohio State fans. (Having IQs over 100 helps.)

There are a few reasons why Michigan and Ohio State get the ratings that they do:

1. Michigan and Ohio State are very large schools with a ton of alumni. They also have big fan bases spread out all over the country. (Ever been to American Pie on Roswell Road for an OSU game?)

2. The Michigan-Ohio State game usually decides the Big Ten title. I can think of two years in the last 15 in which it didn't decide the conference title: '99 (when Michigan was merely playing for an Orange Bowl bid) and '94 (when Penn State was unbeaten and had wrapped up the conference title). This is partially a function of Michigan and Ohio State being consistent winners and partially a function of the rest of the Big Ten not being especially strong. The SEC has about six strong programs (Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida, and Tennessee); the Big Ten has three and one of them is coached by an old man without a headset. Thus, there is more focus on the Michigan-OSU game. (The Big Ten could conceivably expand to four major teams if Illinois contiunues to do well and Zook has assistants who can do all of the heavy-lifting for him.) SEC rivalries are a big deal, but there is no one rivalry to decide the conference like there is with Michigan and Ohio State. That's the shortcoming with Auburn-Alabama; there are too many years like this one in which the game only decides which group of fans will be miserable for the next 364 days.

LD said...

I agree with you, Michael on the general premise that there are big college football fans in the midwest.

But in terms of attendance at games, the SEC and Big Ten aren't quite that close. The SEC averages about 7% more fans in attendance per game than the Big Ten. And the average percentage of capacity in the SEC is 7% higher as well. In raw numbers, that amounts to about 5,000 more fans in attendance for each game - when you add the additional team and their home games to the more attending each game, about 800,000 to 1,000,000 more fans go to SEC games over the course of a year than Big Ten Games. That's a big gap.

But in terms of enthusiasm, it's parochial to say that Michigan/Ohio State fans aren't as passionate as those in the South.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is parochial. Michigan is historically the Big Ten's bell cow, yet many of their fans (including Michael and Brian at MGoBlog) concede the Big House is tame by SEC standards.

My claim is based on a plethora of similar anecdotal experiences with people who consider CFB secondary to the NFL. Multiple conversations with football fans who have relocated to Atlanta have taught me that I don't care as much about the NFL as the average football fan from the midwest and northeast, but I care a lot more about cfb.

I'm a pretty gregarious fellow, and I don't think my experiences are atypical.

You also need to grant me some leeway on the tongue in cheek closing. I've read way too much of Artist Formerly Known as... on EDSBS.

colin said...


For one, the qualifier that's usually attached is that the Big House is seemingly designed to allow noise to escape. Second: screaming and crazy is one way to express your fandom. So is nervous crying. And considering everything, I'd say we earned it.

colin said...

Blah. Where "it" equals "the right to express ourselves in such a manner."

Anonymous said...

Anyone know what the numbers of this game is historically. Even before the hype machine dominated college football, I remember Michigan/ OSU being the biggest game of the year. I hate to admit it, but this is the only rivalry that has had the staying power to be relevant nationally for so many years.

Anonymous said...

Regular season game? The NBA Finals last year posted a 6.2 rating; the Finals that included the league's next big thing (LeBron), and a dynasty team with the best power forward in the NBA.