Mon Aug 25 03:52pm EDT
It won't mean much for the rest of the country, but for anyone in the South who came of age during the last 20 years, the grainy, potato chip-and-blue jeans-sponsored "SEC Game of the Week" brought to you by Raycom Sports, nee Lincoln Financial Sports, nee Jefferson Pilot Sports, was one of the cultural signifiers that brought you closer to your fellow rednecks-in-arms, and, on certain days when the weather was right, the potbellied turkey hunter within yourself. Essentially, it was a full-fledged Jeff Foxworthy joke: "You might be a redneck if you can accurately quote the Yella Fella."
Like fried chicken, rasslin' (not the gay Greek kind), roadside produce, camouflage formal wear and a flagrant disregard for any and all licensure requirements, embarrassingly low-rent Jefferson Pilot football broadcasts -- simultaneously featuring three different broadcasters named Dave, one of whom was later replaced by another guy named Dave -- quietly united an entire region by reminding it of its defiantly lo-def, hungover roots on a weekly basis in a way CBS nor ESPN and their first down lines and slick, basic modern production standards never could. In the episodic struggles of Jared Lorenzen, we saw ourselves.
So look away, look away, Dixie Land, as the heathen Disney goliath descends on one of the last distinctly regional vestiges of the sport:
A new 15-year deal between the Southeastern Conference and ESPN puts a gaping hole in the portfolio of Charlotte-based Raycom Sports.
Raycom, which includes the sports syndication companies formerly known as Jefferson Pilot and Lincoln Financial, has been the 12-school SEC’s TV syndication partner since 1986. The current deal expires after the 2008 football season and the 2008-09 basketball season.
The business of sports syndication gives a company the rights to televise the games and sell advertising in exchange for a rights fee, in this case paid to the SEC. Raycom Sports then negotiates with TV stations across the Southeast to carry the game telecasts, the “syndication” part of the arrangement. SEC football games televised by Raycom Sports are watched in more than 1 million TV households each week.
ESPN and its various offshoots will gobble up all SEC games not controlled by flagship network CBS beginning next year. ESPN is paying an average of $150 million a year for 15 years, according to SportsBusiness Journal...
All four of the Daves put together in one Dave-errific Dave basket could never approach $2.25 billion, and whatever the conference felt it owed to the sanctity of the annual September coverage of Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, the Worldwide Leader's nefarious pockets, like those of the hysterical, show-stopping Genie voice d by comedy legend Robin Williams in the 1994 animated classic, Aladdin, were just too deep.
Many Jefferson Pilot moments stand out -- lame duck LSU's upset over defending mythical champion Alabama in 1993, Billy Jack Haskins' rambling run in the rain against Tennessee circa '93 or '94, Hines Ward's "Slash" performance at quarterback against South Carolina circa 1995, Carolina's incredible comeback over Alabama in 2001, Mississippi State's impossibly slamming the coffin on the Ron Zook era at Florida in 2004, Vanderbilt's last-second upset over Georgia in 2006, under the blasphemous Lincoln Financial banner. But the greatest JP game of them all, without question, was in Auburn in 1994, a near-certain victory for LSU as the curtain rose on the fourth quarter with the Bayou Bengals leading 23-9 and Auburn's offense in the tank:
It should be said for clarity that "Fox Sports Net," advertised in the corner, only replayed the original broadcast, and even Jefferson Pilot wouldn't be associated with the music in the background of that clip. But the drama? The grain? A completely overwhelmed Jamie Howard lobbing picks left and right? "He will score!," again and again? Nobody will do the random, 11:30 a.m. Bloody Mary Game like JP again.
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Photo of JP-era stalwart Jared Lorenzen via Getty Images.