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.
By Paul M. Banks
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.
On a side note, Gameday co-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 “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 an A+ on the test. And marketing was my specialization in MBA school, so I know what I’m talking about.
The fan breakdown for this “Northwestern home game” at a neutral site was 60-40NU in the seats, 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? It felt 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 of page views ever by a very long shot. So I think we should do this more often!
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
Leave a Reply