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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pac-12 Network review: new channel holds up well

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott may seem less popular in Tucson right now than Kim Jong Un, but the Pac-12 Network is a winner.

The P12N launched in August amid uncertainty, but after it had a chance to show football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, baseball and softball, it is clear that it is a good channel.

Yes, it provides a lot of new exposure: The volleyball team was on 13 times, six for soccer, seven for women’s basketball, five times for baseball and nine softball games will be shown, but that’s not the only positive.

Since it is totally owned by the Pac-12, it was logical to expect it to come off as a state run media experience, but it comes off as a normal network. In fact, it’s actually better than ESPN sometimes. Sure there’s a Pac-12 focus, but it lacks the insufferable boosterism that the World Wide Leader has for the SEC.

In response to the infamous “he touched the ball” play, Bill Walton ripped Pac-12 officiating. Walton’s pretty outspoken, but in the UA/ASU soccer game, the commentators criticized the assistant referee on one of the Sun Devils’ goals.

Yes, there’s those atrocious propaganda commercials, but in reality, most commercials are terrible; it’s easy to click to another channel and those don’t bleed into coverage.

The coverage is better than ESPN’s at times, too. I watched nearly all of Oregon’s three game Super Regionals series this year, and I didn’t hear it mention what the Pac-12 Network did, that the only dirt on the Ducks’ field is the mound.

How could it miss that?

P12N added microphones field level or are using better ones than ESPN used last year, because they pick up what the players are saying on the baseball and softball diamonds.

The announcers have been solid. The only complaint is about the play-by-play gymnastics guy, whose dull and obvious observations add little. He must be new to the Pac-12, and probably sports in general, because he didn’t know what “Bear Down” meant.

That’s pretty low on the totem pole, and his partner was Olympian Alicia Sacramone, who has done well enough to make us mostly forget about a broadcast partner that sounds like he was a reject from Fox Sports Network.

The basketball show was OK, but the football version was stellar. Rick Neuheisel and Ronnie Lott work great together.

Right now the network is mostly just games though. Football in 60 (cutting out time between plays to fit games into an hour window) was a great idea, but mostly it just seems like they are replaying games.

It needs more shows — documentaries like the story of “Bear Down,” why Cal and UCLA have the same colors and mascot, why do they call it “Wazzu,” stuff like that.

Maybe it’s that it hasn’t had a chance to do more shows. In the second semester, it added “The 12 Best.”

There is, of course, the elephant in the room: DirecTV. It’s a huge black eye for the new network, but since the other major providers seem to accept the deal, it looks like the problem is more with DTV than the Pac-12.

Its focus doesn’t seem to be on the channels as much. When was the last time you saw a DirecTV commercial that was about its line up and not that it has a DVR?

It’s been months since the conference told its fans to switch providers, so at this point it’s a question of whether they are more loyal to their team or their box.

The Pac-12 has made a lot of mistakes of late, but at least the Pac-12 Network has been a bright spot — for those of us who can see it, anyway.

–James Kelley is a history senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @JamesKelley520.

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