Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Must-stream TV for UVa, Tech

"Hey, man, you wanna come over and watch the games?"

"I don't know ... guess it depends. How big is your monitor?"

"Sixteen inches."

"Your mouse?"


"And your Internet connection?"

"Fast, dude. Fast."

"I'll bring the beer."

So it has come to this. Here we are in November, the stretch run for conference play, and we're staring at an Internet-only doubleheader today for our two local teams.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not knocking ESPN 360. ESPN 360 is a tremendous concept that keeps getting better.

Given a choice between a game streamed live on the Net or a game not viewable at all, well, that's a pretty easy decision.

Plus, the tech-savvy among us know how to link the computer to a television, providing a better view.

But this still stings because of the message it sends.

What the networks are telling us is that of six ACC games on the schedule today, Virginia Tech-Maryland and Boston College-Virginia are the least interesting.

Granted, Georgia Tech-Duke on ESPN2, Miami-North Carolina on WSET and Clemson-N.C. State on My19, aka WDBJ Digital 7.2 (trust me, it's TV) all have conference title implications.

But the honorable mention slot on ESPNU features a matchup of teams with losing records: Florida State (4-5) at Wake Forest (4-6).

Our guys couldn't top that?

Tubeless tilts aren't a new phenomenon for the Cavaliers or Hokies, but they're typically earlier in the season. UVa has been a September staple on ESPN 360 since the platform's inception. The Hokies were relegated to ESPN 360 twice earlier this year, for the Marshall and Duke games.

Still, do the majority of Tech fans, unaccustomed to their team being out of Coastal Division contention this early, even know how to access this game in cyberspace?

"I honestly doubt my mom would know how," Tech linebacker Cody Grimm said. "But she's coming to the game, so it's not a big deal."

And that's the silver lining here. UVa is at home, and plenty of good seats should be available for anybody who wants to see the game. And College Park is a leisurely drive for many Tech fans.

For the oodles of Tech alumni in the D.C. and Northern Virginia area, this game is actually the most accessible. Given that -- and the fact that many Tech alums often coexist with Maryland grads at the office -- perhaps that adds some juice to the game.


"Nah," Tech running back Ryan Williams said. "Not at all."

OK, then.

Let's rephrase: Does ANYTHING, ANYWHERE add ANY juice to this game?

"Nah, not really," Williams said. "Nothing really adds juice. As far as the team, I know a lot of people are excited to wear the new uniforms. That might add some juice.

"But for me personally? Nah. It's just another game, and another game I've got to help the team win."

Hmm. It's getting less difficult to blame the networks.

But before anybody starts fearing that Williams and his teammates might lack motivation today, try to remember something: Players aren't like us.

Most of them don't crunch the BCS numbers. They don't break down division tiebreakers in October. They don't scoreboard watch, or handicap the races for top awards.

They find their juice in a simpler place: The game itself.

"Football to me is everything," Williams said. "I can't describe it. It's like when I'm out on the field, I just love being out there, regardless of the situation.

"When I'm playing football, nothing else matters. ... I love this sport to death, and nothing really compares. And that's what motivates me."

Enough juice for you? Then fire up the laptop and enjoy.

Your Web-tacular twinbill awaits.

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