ESPN Ruining High School Friday Nights

Each week, I take this time to write about high school football and I usually take a look back at last week’s games and take a look ahead to the games scheduled for this weekend.  I pride myself on always being positive when talking about the young men and women who participate in high school sports because, first of all, regardless of the sport, those athletes work hard to perform their best and they are doing it for all the right reasons. 

Secondly, in my opinion, there is nothing that tops the excitement of a high school sporting event!

This week, however for at least the first part of my commentary, I am going to stray from the normal format to simply say “bah humbug” to the sports media giant that resides in Bristol, Connecticut.  Certainly stronger words would better fit my true feelings for the money moguls that have ruined Friday nights for high school football, but since I don’t want to be fired, we’ll stay with “bah humbug”.  Since their inception in September of 1979, this entertainment sports programming network, or better known as ESPN, has marketed themselves as the “worldwide leader in sports.”  However, over the last few years, the only thing they have been leading in is causing havoc every Friday night during the high school football season.  Let me explain what I’m talking about.  As I’m sure everyone knows, tomorrow night in West Virginia, college football will grab the spotlight as the Mountaineers travel to Huntington to battle the Thundering Herd in a nationally televised game on ESPN.  Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m a huge college football fan…..and in full disclosure, I host the post game show on Metronews after every Mountaineer football game and it’s something I thoroughly enjoy.  But, why does it have to be on a Friday night.  Now, I certainly don’t blame West Virginia University or Marshall University.  A chance to be on national television and the huge check that the boys from Bristol write, makes it impossible to pass up.  And, in talking with the folks at both universities, they do indeed hate playing on a Friday night.  But, college football is a business….a big business and it just makes good business sense to play the game.  But, let’s take a look at what it has done this week in high school football across the state.  On a normal Thursday night in WV, there may be one or two high school football games….this week, there are sixteen.  On a normal Saturday night, we usually see three or four games….this week, we have nineteen.  And, on a normal Friday night, we can always count on at least sixty three games, this week we have only thirty two.  Now, you can say “the high school’s don’t have to move their games”……..but you would be wrong.  Those high schools that moved their games this week cannot compete with the Mountaineers and Thundering Herd….they need the gate receipts from a home football game….and, the last time I looked; they are not receiving that big payout from ESPN.  You know, one would think if you really were the “worldwide leader in sports”, you would be creative enough to come up with some other programming that did not so adversely affect those Friday night lights…..especially in a small state like West Virginia!

Now, back to the normal format of this commentary.  Last week, the two time class AAA defending state champs suffered their first loss of the 2010 season when the Black Eagles fell to a very talented team of Patriots from George Washington High School.  According to South Charleston head coach John Messenger, his Black Eagles “came out on the short end of a great football game against a very talented football team that’s going to be around all season long.”  Also in Class AAA last week, teams that seem to be well on their way to another great season all picked up wins as Martinsburg, Bridgeport, Capital, Brooke, Morgantown, Hurricane and University all picked up big wins.  In Class AA, the Bluefield Beavers continue to roll as they disposed of Class AAA Princeton 17-0 and the Wayne Pioneers and the Blue Eagles of Magnolia looked impressive as both picked up big wins at home.  In Class A, the Blue Dons of Madonna knocked off Paden City by fifty and have outscored their first two opponents 98 to 19.

This week, as mentioned above, 67 games are spread out over three days and nights and our Northside Automotive game of the week will be one of the few games played on Friday night.  For the first time in over 30 years, the Minutemen of Lewis County will try and take down the Bridgeport Indians and with both teams being undefeated it should be a great game. 

And, a very special reminder…with the Friends of Coal Bowl being played on Friday night in Huntington, we will have a special “Saturday night edition” of Wendy’s High School Gamenight.  We invite you to join us on 45 radio stations this Saturday night beginning at 9:30 when we will give you all the scores of all the games played on Saturday, plus recap the games played Thursday and Friday.

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