The media doesn't love these guys yet. You should. - Justin K. Aller
The mass media's been trying to downplay K-State, and there's a surprising reason you haven't even thought of. Jon explains it, and tells you why you need to assert your media independence.
There is a crisis before us, my friends. A crisis of faith and integrity. I come to you today to address grave matters affecting the game we all love, and to explain to you why it is vital that you, the College Football Fan, rally your support behind the Kansas State Wildcats in our nation's time of trial.
Certainly you are a College Football Fan. If not, you wouldn't even be here reading this. There are other people who might claim to be college football fans, but they're wrong. For instance, there's your pal who claims to be a Longhorns fan who knows that Texas is traveling to Lawrence next Saturday, but doesn't even know the name of the Jayhawks' starting quarterback. (Okay, to be fair, I don't even think Charlie Weis knows the name of his own starting quarterback at this point, but let's just stick with the lesson for now.)
There's my inexplicably Sooner-fan mom, who I'll be talking to on Tuesday and she'll ask me, "Who do the Sooners play this week?" She's a big fan, from about ten minutes before the game starts until the game's quite clearly over, which last week was right around the end of the first quarter. But she doesn't care enough to memorize the schedule or anything.
There's my mom's Jayhawk friend, who also has to ask who her team is playing this week, then says things like "Oh, Kansas is going to beat Oklahoma. I just know it." Yeah, you know who I'm talking about.
Finally, we have my daughter, who forgets that there are games on Saturdays until I have to remind her that no, I cannot give her a ride somewhere Saturday night, damnit what is wrong with you you're an adult use your brain. But once she realizes that K-State is playing, she makes sure to put on a purple t-shirt, right? Not that she actually watches the game, mind you.
You are a College Football Fan. You are not these people. And that is why the media coverage of our beloved sport is not aimed at you, because you are not the lowest common denominator. All that is required to provide you enjoyment and excitement is a good football game between competent teams. (Or maybe even just one competent team, if you like them a lot.) All the analysis and commentary and Sports Entertainment content delivered unto you by the mass media? The only reason you even pay attention to it is so that you can get mad at it, because you recognize it as stupid and venal. You come to places like this to get your information fix, because at least here it's not all about the almighty dollar. The only conflicts of interest around here are those which are readily apparent and undeniable; if I'm discussing the National scene and I'm over-inflating Kansas State, well, at least you know exactly where my bias comes from. Further, you can always go over to Addicted to Quack and get equally-biased commentary from a Duck, and then you're smart enough to either agree with one of us or slice the thing down the middle.
The mass media isn't like that, though. They will swear on a stack of P&L reports that they are a completely impartial and unbiased entity merely engaging in journalism, and the only real exception to this is the obvious winking they give to Lou Holtz on College Football Final whenever he starts blowing smoke up your ass about Notre Dame, South Carolina, Arkansas, Minnesota, William & Mary... you get the picture. Lou Holtz will never pass up the opportunity to pimp a former employer; I know it, you know it, we all know it, even ESPN knows it so they make a joke of it. Here's the thing, though: they are biased, and they are not impartial, and it's not in any way, shape, or form the way you think.
You see, the thing that drives the profit motive of the major sports media concerns is not devotion to one team, or one conference even. Their goal is to get as many people watching as they possibly can. There's a problem with this, though: if you are College Football Fan, and you are, you're not making your gameday viewing decisions based on the flummery of a bunch of talking heads on television trying to convince you that this game or that game are The Games To Watch. You're going to watch your team. Then you're going to watch games that directly impact your team. Then you're going to watch games involving teams for which you have a soft spot (which, from my experience over the years on the internet, is almost invariably "teams the mass media is trying their hardest to ignore").
Here, then, is where the ugly truth comes to the fore. If it's not you that the sports media is trying to convince, then who is it?
It's your pal who doesn't know who Dayne Crist is. It's my mom, and her Jayhawk friend. It is even, to an extent, my daughter, to whom ESPN is trying to sell college football as an exciting, meaningful entertainment which she will find enjoyable. It's not going to happen, but they're still going to try.
And what's exciting and enjoyable? Chaos. Points. Offense. Even among us, we College Football Fans who will argue incessantly about the terrible blight of the spread offense and the point explosion it has spawned, a 6-3 game can be incredibly excruciating to sit through even if it is the result of two exceptional defenses shutting one another's offense down. Mentally, defenses do not succeed; offenses fail. Unless, of course, the defense fails, in which case we openly and mockingly acknowledge the fact (hello West Virginia).
Interestingly, a vast majority of the serious College Football Fans I interact with appreciate soccer. This is in contrast to the target audience of the major sports media outlets, who think soccer is boring and therefore unmanly because they have 1-0 games all the time. College Football Fan is capable of appreciating this as a tactical and athletic masterpiece, when it is. But that target audience? They want offense. It doesn't matter what sport it is, they want to see people score. Setting a new record for preventing other people from succeeding isn't nearly as exciting as setting records for profligacy, and if you don't believe me, a simple question: other than possibly from me, have you heard about Division III Mount Union going six games without allowing a point? Of course not. But, hey, some kid at a Division III school with a losing record throws for 728 yards, and he's on ESPN for three days.
Circling back around to our premise then, we come to this. The mass media isn't dismissive of Kansas State because they want the SEC to win the national championship (preferably because two of their teams are playing for it). They don't downplay Kansas State because it's a flyover state about whom nobody cares; let's be honest, it's not as though Alabama is New York. The mass media doesn't know what to do with Kansas State for one simple reason:
Kansas State, to the target audience, is boring. They grind the clock (except, you know, when they score dickety times against Kansas on drives lasting less than two minutes). They comport themselves with dignity and character. They concentrate on precision and focus rather than explosive displays of OMG DID YOU SEE THAT? They're coached by a man who is often terse, soft-spoken, and never, ever says anything controversial at all (though if you listen to enough Bill Snyder, you get used to a subtle and biting wit that sometimes just doesn't get noticed).
You cannot sell Kansas State to the mass media's target audience. Yes, part of that is because Kansas is a small state whose loyalties are split anyway. Part of it is because Kansas State lacks archaic tradition. You can't just snap your fingers and get millions of eyeballs just by uttering the words "Kansas State". And part of it is because the mass media itself has told its target audience that Kansas State isn't interesting, which is hilarious because now they're trying their hardest to reverse course and convince people otherwise. It reminds me of an old retail doctrine my first boss told me regarding sales of back-issue comic books: "Believe it or not, people are more willing to buy these when they're three dollars than they are when they're only a quarter, because if it's three dollars you're telling them that it's actually worth more than it was new whereas if you try and dump them at a quarter to get rid of them, you're telling them that they're worthless."
But you... you, College Football Fan... should appreciate what Kansas State football is all about. The mass media's pipe dream of selling our sport to people who don't actually care about it is just that; a dream. It's important, because it does help generate the money which inevitably flows into the coffers of our beloved schools' athletic departments and pays for all those gorgeous new facilities, but in the end it's a small drop in the bucket. The real payoff for the networks comes when we all converge on one channel to appreciate a team and spike those viewership numbers. I'm not going to prevaricate here; the SEC gets big numbers because we watch their marquee matchups unless they're conflicting with our own rooting interests. The thing is, the SEC's marquee matchups are "real football" in the eyes of College Football Fan in the way that last year's Alamo Bowl simply isn't. One is a football game; the other is a train wreck sped up to look even more spectacular. We didn't observe Washington and Baylor going crazy for 60 minutes because it was a great contest of athletic wills, but because it was funny. To us, anyway.
If you care about football -- the game as a whole, the meshing of discrete units to create a whole football team, a game where teams succeed or fail because of their own attributes -- then you should be paying attention to Kansas State. You should be watching. You should be supporting their bid for a national championship (or, if you're Alabama or Florida, at least supporting your opportunity to beat them). Because Kansas State, while employing newfangled tactics, is still old-school football. Run the ball. Stop the other guy.