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Missing the West Coast stories (via the narrative)

I think this will be my last post on this specific topic for a while as I will try to keep the focus on this upcoming Saturday. I thought Kyle's responses (Dawg Sports) (Parts I, II, and III) to my post concerning East Coast Bias merited a response. I don't think this discussion will ever end. Hopefully we will be able to continue this over beers some day. However, I do think it is very important that both sides here each other out.

I will start with some of the recent articles that came out on last week. So last week ESPN spent a lot of time building up the storylines on coaches on the hot-seatin America. This was from ESPN columnist Pat Forde:

Carr and Smith are entering their ninth season post-championship, Fulmer his eighth, Coker just his fifth. Fan bases at each school are divided into warring factions of loyalists and subversives. Rivals have sped past. Athletic directors are trying to sound supportive while keeping their options open. Kingpin programs are approaching a crossroads.

"Every year it gets harder to win the national championship," Miami athletic director Paul Dee said. "Yet at the same time, people's expectations of winning a national championship get higher every year. That's sort of the neighborhood we live in."

The living's not easy in that neighborhood right now at four Cadillac programs. The three football coaches all made significant staff changes this offseason, while Smith vowed changes last March, but then kept his full-time assistants intact. All four are coming off deeply dissatisfying seasons, and all four need a bounce-back year to change the subject.
Pat was not the only devoting his time to this story. WWL's Todd McShay also decides to write up a "insider" story on coaches on the hot seat ($), which including the aforementioned names include Chuch D'Amato (North Carolina State), Art Briles (Houston), Greg Robinson (Syracuse), John L. Smith (Michigan State), and Frank Solich (Ohio).    All of these coaches are supposedly feeling pressure from concerned fans from their respective schools. Note not a single coach from the West Coast is mentioned in the story. Is it because certain schools' fans are not concerned about the underachievements of their respective head coaches? Of course not. The stories are there to be written about how Mike Riley needs to prove himself at Oregon State to escape the shadow of Dennis Erickson, how Willingham needs to prove that his Notre Dame fiasco was an aberration, and how almost two/third of the Bruins Nation is still not sure about the direction UCLA is heading under Karl Dorrell. You don't think at least some UCLA fans are upset?

Okay that was more of a joke from these guys.

But you get the picture. Lot of unrest in Westwood, and I am sure folks are going to start wondering about Ty, should Huskies finish towards the bottom of the Pac again this season. These stories all involve program slightly more high profile (at least in the case of Washington and UCLA) than NC State, Syracuse, MSU, and Ohio. Both have the potential of being NC caliber programs, but have been hampered by mediocre coaching. Both have huge fan bases that are simmering in latent frustrations. Everyone in the West knows Washington is a big time football school, and as for UCLA, I am not sure how many times we have to point out we are not just a basketball school. So yeah fans from both of these schools are on edge. There is pressure on Willingham and Dorrell that they can get the job done at UCLA. In other words they are on the hot seat at high profile West Coast programs. But you are not going to find these stories anywhere around ESPN, because it doesn't fit the narrative.

Ah, the narrative. Kyle did bring up the issue of "the narrative", originally coined in the CFB blogosphere by LD at Gunslingers. We alluded to that narrative in our one year anniversary post (hey lot of people like us despite what some Dorrell supporters (not necessarily UCLA fans) would like you to believe). Yes, we get it. We get what drives the media coverage. We can see it happening again this year.

Photo SI: Hat tip to CC

But it doesn't make up for the fact that this narrative is causing a so called national network missing obvious stories, which time and time again leave the teams from the Pac-10 and their fans short. Going back to that example of how ESPN is now trying to peddle Cal-USC as the "rivalry" game of the Pac-10. How does that make fans from John Elway's alma mater feel?

Yeah, those fans at Strawberry Canyon look really dispassionate. Don't they? (more on that below)

So USC is a bigger rival of Cal than Stanford? Yes, ESPN is pushing that story line to boost their ratings, pump up Disney profits. But by doing so they do appear as either ignorant or just cavalier re. tradition of college sports out West. We call that bias. You can call it ECB or "bias" against the West Coast teams. Whatever you want. The bias becomes inherent as time and time again just for the sake of their narrative/profit they keep missing the stories.

In terms of personal experience, I attended a Game Day show before. It was September of 2001 (the week before 9/11 I believe). I went down to Tuscaloosa with few buddies of mine to watch the UCLA-Alabama game. It was an amazing experience. However, the only bitter taste in our mouth was the telecast of that Game Day show, in which Chris. Kirk, Lee et al. were having collective orgasms of Dennis Franchione and how the revived 'Bama program were going to run all over UCLA. And that was a pretty highly ranked UCLA program coming in. Yet all we heard about what Freddie Millon this and Freddie Million that, and how that game was going to be the statement game for the Francionne era being ushered into T'Town. Well that was that.

The ESPN Crew was all about celebrating Bama's pending resurgence and didn't waste any time with UCLA. This happens time and time again. And I don't think we need to catalogue each instances of Pac-10 teams being overlooked/slighted to argue that there is a defacto bias against West Coast teams which results from the profit driven corporate media narrative. Sure it may not be intentional on the part of ESPN, but it doesn't make up for the fact that they keep missing the obvious storylines, and end up giving an incomplete picture of college football.

And no it's not the fans fault. We have heard this song and dance before.  We UCLA fans specially were subjected to this line of argument during seven years of Lavin, when ESPN kept parroting Lavin and his media apologists line that UCLA fans are too demanding. They don't show up at games. They don't really care about their hoops, and they are always too demanding on their head coaches. Of course all if it was complete huey, total BS. As Coach Howland as shown in just three years UCLA fans will support the program and the coach passionately, if they feel everything is going right. And it sure is going right in hoops.

And I also believe it is completely unfair to paint the entire Pac-10 fan base in one broad brush as somehow being not as passionate as the fan base from SEC. That is just wrong.

As much as I hate and despise the fan base from cross-town, no one can argue the passion of USC faithful. No one can argue with the passion from football fans from Great Pacific Northwest:

That's the footage from 2003 Apple Cup between Wazzu and the Dawgs in Seattle. A 5-6 Husky team upset a 9-3 Couger team which went on to beat Texas at the Holiday Bowl.

(snark tag on)Yeah those fans really sound subdued and uninspired. Don't they? They don;t sound passionate enough for the Eastern Sports Programming network (snark tag off). I am sure you can find the same passion and fire in the Civil War, and the Friday after thanksgiving game between the Zona schools.

We are not saying Pac-10 fans are better than others. What we are saying though our fans and traditions do not get the same exposure teams and their fans from other power conferences get. And that is not due to the fault of our fans, it is due to fault of Pac-10 officials, who simply do not have a clue about how to optimize the exposure of this wonderful conference.

Moreover, Kyle goes on to attempt to make an argument that somehow Pac-10 fans are not as engaged/plugged in similar to the younger generation in America. He says this:
We know this because the 18-to-24-year-old demographic, which spends its disposable income on consumer goods, determines the success or failure of commercial television programs, motion pictures, and popular music. That group could strongly influence the course of our governance, as political activists of that age did in the late 1960s, but the lack of public participation by young Americans blunts their effectiveness at setting public policy. Young people spend more money, so advertising is aimed at persuading the young; old people vote more often, so policies are set to please the elderly.

The West Coast, the youngest region of the United States, is, in many ways, the 18-to-24-year-old demographic of sports. The muscle is there and, where the region flexes its muscles, E.S.P.N. responds. Where success on the field provides marketing opportunities---as with the U.S.C. Trojans from 2002 through 2005 and perhaps again in 2006 or with the Utah Utes in 2004 and perhaps again this year---the Worldwide Leader is perfectly willing to give the region its due.

However, Pac-10 fans too often do on Saturday what young Americans do on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November . . . stay home and allow their equals to be treated as their superiors by virtue of their own failure to participate on a level commensurate with their potential. The appearance of an East Coast bias arises not from too great a presence of conference pride in Bristol, but from too little proof of conference pride in places like Berkeley, Eugene, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
Where to start? First, I think Kyle is resorting to a vast generalization when he is asserting that somehow young voters, 18-24 year old demographic is not engaged in the national political conversation. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Kyle is really selling our youngest generation short which right now may turn out to be more civic minded, politically aware than my generation from the 90s, and the ones from the 70s and 80s. These guys are lot more plugged in than you think. No wonder the older folks still do not get the phenomenon of John Stewart and Stepehen Colbert and miss out the trend lines on what is going on around the country. Yes more and more young voters are engaging in perilous activities some folks refer on the street as "voting" (emphasis mine):
An analysis of raw data by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) at the University of Maryland indicates that young people voted in bigger numbers in the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia in 2005, than they did in 2001. The number of votes cast in precincts with a high concentration of college students increased by an average of 15.1 percent above the 2001 election in Virginia, and by an average of 19.9 percent above the 2001 election in New Jersey.

This news out of New Jersey and Virginia comes on the heels of data just released by the U.S. Census Bureau that found turnout among 18-24 year olds in the 2004 presidential election increased 11 percentage points over the 2000 election, and more than doubled the turnout increase of all other age groups (which only increased by four percentage points).
So if Kyle wants to compare the Pac-10 fans to 18-24 year olds, then I will gladly take it. It shows we are more aware, plugged in, engaged, and sophisticated all the other demographics (is he saying the older demographic is represented by the SEC?) around the country. Kidding about the SEC being conference for the nursing homes:

Okay enough of that. :) This discussion re. voter demographic IMHO is total non sequitur in the discussion of bias in sport media narratives.

What I wanted to get at was Kyle's underlying assertion that Pac-10 fans are somehow not passionate about their teams is just not true. Perhaps he ought to take in a game in Eurgene, Seattle before implying that Pac-10 fans have no passion.  Yes, we don't get our fans passion hyped day in and day out on ESPN, but when it comes to home-field advantage, and genuine college football atmosphere those teams do not have to take back seats to any team from the SEC. And this is coming from someone who has been to Bryant Denny stadium.

And I get how USC became the media darling of ESPN. Of course that has more to do with the ungodly run the Trojans have put together in last three years. And it doesn't hurt them to have a coach who due to his time with the Jets and the Patriots is well connected to the crew from Bristol. But just providing blanket coverage on the USC football (although ESPN seems to have missed the larger story of corruption, lawlessness at South Central) doesn't make up for the fact that the WWL still provides an incomplete picture when it comes it commenting/covering on West Coast football/basketball. Their total body of work still leaves much to be desired. And yeah, don't bother bringing up this issue some ESPN ombudsman (an SEC grad).

I will end with this. I really didn't intend to get into this whole SEC v. PAC-10 debate. I don't like those endless arguments. Doesn't get us anywhere. As I have said before both conferences are great with some tremendous teams.  I think we are not going to get anywhere by throwing around arguments about who has the better schedule or who has the better fan support. Those back and forth (which will never end if ones to keep it going) do not address the central premise of our concern that time and time again the scribes from the East Coast and sports casters/analysts/commentators from East Coast based networks missed the stories out of West Coast. And to many us rooting for our West Coast teams that comes across as defacto bias against the Left Coast from the WWL.