A title game for the ages, as long as you weren’t sleeping: While We’re Waiting


Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

If you guys are at all like me, you are paying a severe price this morning for watching the college football national championship game last night. It’s a fruitless thing to complain about because it’s never going to change, but my goodness. Having a major event that ends at 12:30 am on in the Eastern time zone makes no sense whatsoever.

Just because it’s fruitless to complain about it, of course, doesn’t mean I’m not going to. I’m totally going to complain about this. I’ve already talked to a couple people this morning who told me they fell asleep and missed the ending of the game. How much of a bummer is that? One of the greatest championship games of all time, and they missed it because someone, somewhere, in some dark room, decided that this game needed to start at 8:30 pm.

It’s not just the start time, of course. It’s the fact that they turned this into a four-hour game. Between the ridiculous number of times the clock stops in college football, to reviewing every other play, to extended commercial breaks to milk every last dollar out of it, to a longer-than-necessary halftime break, the powers that be took every opportunity to make this event last as long as possible. Why? Because it’s a spectacle. It’s a money printing operation. It’s the highlight and culmination of the college football season. All eyes are on this game, and the NCAA wants to get their money’s worth.

I get all of that. It’s completely understandable and legit. But why can’t the game start at 7:00 pm Eastern? The obvious answer is that if the game starts at 7:00 in the east, it will be starting at 4:00 pm Pacific, meaning a lot of people will still be at work when the game starts. I’m sure “they” have done plenty of studies to determine what time generates the most viewership across all time zones, and clearly those studies have said it’s better to wait for the west coast folks to get home before you start the game, even if it means a whole bunch people in the east are going to fall asleep and miss the game. I guess the silver lining is that many of them will fall asleep with the game on, so the ratings won’t be affected.

So look, I know this isn’t about what is “fair”. I’ve already said I know full well this is a pointless thing to complain about. So I’m not being naive or delusional. But I’m going to talk about how this affects us as fans because that’s what I care about. I couldn’t care less about how much money the NCAA and these universities make on this game. I care about fans who want to watch and can’t stay up.

Here’s the thing, though. No matter what you do, fans on one of the coasts are going to be impacted negatively. Move the game to 7:00 and the west coast folks potentially miss the beginning of the game. Keep it at 8:30 and the eastern folks potentially miss the end of the game. As long as this country has five primary time zones, there’s just never going to be a good way to handle this.

So, if I were representing the fans’ interests in this discussion, I would say we have two options. One, we could abolish the time zones and make the Central time zone the standard for this entire country. It would be a little strange in the summer when the sun goes down at 11:00 pm on the west coast and in the winter when the sun goes down at 4:00 pm on the east coast, but people would adjust and it would potentially work. Obviously, this is never going to happen, though.

Which leaves us with our last option, then, which is to choose the lesser of two evils. Is it better to force west coast people to miss the start of the game, or to force east coast people to either miss the end of the game or else potentially put their job in jeopardy by being too tired the next day to perform at 100 percent efficiency? I am not neutral in this debate, but I would say missing the end of the game is worse than missing the start.

Perhaps if any of the WFNY west coasters (Hi Kyle!) read this they could give us their perspective. If we have any WFNY commenters on the west coast, they can chime in and state their case. All I know is that staying up until 12:30 am to watch that game and then waking up at 5:00 am for work is awful. It’s truly the worst. If Ohio State was in this game, a lot of offices in Columbus would have closed or at least opened a little later to let their employees watch the game and get some sleep. When the Cavaliers won the NBA Championship, nobody batted an eye when I took a half day for the next morning and came in at lunch. But when it’s two teams not from this area playing, it’s still a big game and a major event, but taking off work for it is a significantly worse look. For some (many?), taking off isn’t an option at all. And so it is we have to decide between sleep/work/performance and watching perhaps the second biggest sporting event of the year in the United States.

I hate it. And even though I know it is never going to change, I’m never going to stop complaining about it. It seems unnecessarily cruel to me.

As for the game itself? Well, it was an instant classic. One of the best college football games I have ever seen. We’ve seen some really good bowl games this season. The Orange Bowl with Florida State and Michigan was a dizzying back-and-forth affair at the end. The Rose Bowl with Penn State and USC will go down as one of the best Rose Bowls ever. But the sport saved the best bowl game of the season for the one that mattered the most.

We’ve been lucky to see some incredible championship games since the implementation first of the BCS and now the playoff system. Last year’s Clemson-Alabama game was fantastic. There was the Ohio State-Miami (FL) double overtime classic in 2003, Texas-USC in 2006, Florida State-Auburn in 2014. Everyone can decide for themselves how they want to rank them, but this year’s title match was one for the ages. The two clear-cut best teams in the country going toe-to-toe in a back and forth of one potentially back-breaking haymaker after another.

Who didn’t think the game was probably over when Alabama TE O.J. Howard took Jalen Hurts’ pass 68 yards for a touchdown and a 24-14 lead late in the third quarter? When Clemson took a 28-24 lead with four minutes and subsequently had pushed Alabama into a 3rd and 16 play, it felt inevitable. When Jalen Hurts scrambled 30 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with just two minutes left, it seemed like Clemson had once again blown an opportunity to win a title.

But that’s when Deshaun Watson cemented his legacy in Clemson lore forever. Watson and Clemson receiver Mike Williams combined for a couple big pass plays and Clemson TE Jordan Leggett made an incredible catch to get Clemson to within striking distance with 0:14 left in the game. An incomplete pass and pass interference play later, Clemson was on the 2 yard line with just six seconds left. Watson then found Hunter Renfrow all alone in the front corner of the end zone for the winning touchdown.

As someone who doesn’t care about Clemson one way or another, it was just an awesome scene to behold as a sports fan. A team that has been fighting to climb the mountain and claim legitimacy as NCAA football power, Clemson finally had reached their goal.

Now Watson heads to the NFL and has to keep his fingers crossed that the Browns don’t draft him. I kid (or do I), but I also have no idea what kind of NFL QB Watson will be. I’m always someone who admires athletes who come up biggest in the premiere games, and that is most certainly Watson. Two years in a row he has put up stellar performances against the mighty Alabama defense in the biggest game. That means something to me. Does it mean he’ll be a great NFL QB? I don’t know that, I just know he won’t be rattled by the moment or by a challenge.

It seems unlikely the Browns will take Watson first overall in this draft and there is almost no chance he would drop to 12, so it probably doesn’t matter. And I’ll defer to Joe Gilbert and Michael Bode who study this stuff way more than I do as to how Watson projects at the next level. I just know that deep down, there’s a part of me that wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if Watson ended up a Brown. If nothing else, we already know he wears orange well.

Have a great week at WFNY, my friends.