I’ve got to say, I’m excited that the Sooners of the University of Oklahoma, one of my alma maters, is in the college football playoffs tonight. I had given up on them after they lost to Texas, but here they are, playing the undefeated Clemson for a shot at the national championship. For everything you want to know about the playoffs and much more than you want to know, go here. (Give your picks in the comments.)
The bigger story, though, is ESPN’s attempt to take over the way Americans celebrate New Year’s Eve. Instead of going to parties, staying up until midnight, and watching the ball drop at Times Square, watch college football!
ESPN wants to dominate New Year’s Eve, much as the N.F.L. takes over Thanksgiving Day and the N.B.A. deploys five games in its bid to wrest control of Christmas from Santa Claus. But playing games on national holidays is one thing; seeking dominion on New Year’s Eve is another.Unless New Year’s Eve falls on a weekend, the first of the national semifinals in the foreseeable future will be played while some people are still at work. (This year, it’s the Orange Bowl, between Clemson and Oklahoma, at 4 p.m.) And the second game (the Cotton Bowl, between Alabama and Michigan State, at 8 p.m.) will compete against New Year’s Eve parties, at home and elsewhere, and televised revels like “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest” on ABC, ESPN’s corporate sibling within the Walt Disney Company.
All of this does not ruffle ESPN, which has a 12-year, $7.3 billion contract to carry the Playoff and other bowls. Its executives are secure in knowing how powerful college football is and how potent the Playoff is, even after only one go-round. Last season, the semifinal games were played on New Year’s Day and drew an average of just over 28 million viewers.