Beyond the Boxscore

ESPN adds to Texas A&M's final insult by turning rivalry into a shameless Longhorn Network commercial

ESPN adds to Texas A&M's final insult by turning rivalry into a shameless Longhorn Network commercial

Mike Sherman
Mike Sherman
Justin Tucker
Justin Tucker
Austin Photo Set: News_Kevin_Longhorn Network_July 2011_set desk
ESPN turned the game into one long ad for the Longhorn Network — the network that almost no one can still see. Courtesy of ESPN
Case McCoy
Case McCoy
Mike Sherman
Justin Tucker
Austin Photo Set: News_Kevin_Longhorn Network_July 2011_set desk
Case McCoy

As if Texas A&M turning the most talented roster in the state of Texas into a 6-6 record by the grace of Mike Sherman wasn't bad enough. As if blowing a 13-0 lead, and then coming back to take the lead again with 2:29 left — only to blow that too — wasn't excruciating enough.

As if watching Justin Tucker hit a 40-yard field goal as time expired and then start that joyful sprint away from all the University of Texas players who wanted to tackle him, as Sherman shuffled onto the field, a 27-25 loser, as clueless as ever, wasn't enough of a dagger into any Aggie heart.

No, ESPN had to make it worse by turning the 118th and final (for now) game in one of the most storied, emotional rivalries in college football history into one big commercial for the Longhorn Network.

It was a shameless display by sports' mothership, even when you consider the promote-itself-at-all-costs lows ESPN has routinely sunk to in the past. There is just something about taking this game — Texas-Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night — and making it a promotion for the very network that destroyed this game that rings beyond classless.

Maybe, the smart asses at ESPN found humor in the whole thing. These are the people who brought you LeBron James' The Decision after all.

Then again, putting those bumpers on the bottom of the screen, urging people to call their cable operators and ask for ESPN's Longhorn Network might have been worse than LeBron's one-hour special. If you cut through all the hype, there was news value in The Decision. There is none in desperately trying to get fans to do the dirty work for a failing network that no one watches and even fewer seem to care about.

The lowest of the lows came when with Texas driving for the game-winning field goal, ESPN decided to use some of the time between plays to put up a full-screen ad/plea for the Longhorn Network. Not during a commercial break either. Right in the middle of the most crucial moments of the night.

What a run by Case McCoy! Oh by the way, have you called your cable operator and whined about not getting the Longhorn Network yet?!

Great game. Horrible broadcast.

If only ESPN simply stuck to the great moments it caught. This was a game on — and more than worthy of being on — ESPN, the original network. The game should have been allowed to stand on its own without using it as a platform to relentlessly pimp the outlet where UT volleyball plays.

How great was Texas coach Mack Brown lauding Case McCoy by saying, "He looked like his old brother"?

 It was a shameless display by sports' mothership, even when you consider the promote-itself-at-all-costs lows ESPN has routinely sunk to in the past. 

Talk about a coach who gets it. Brown didn't just boil down what everyone was thinking into witty lines either, he showed relentless class.

"Sports can be really cruel," Brown said in his postgame press conference. "I think it was a time tonight where both teams deserved to win."

It's easier to say and do these type of things when you win. Especially when you probably know you should have been blown off the field in the back of your mind. The Aggies were well on their way to delivering the goodbye sermon to UT and the Big 12 of their dreams as they completely dominated the first 20 minutes of game time, completely shutdown the Longhorns' running game.

But then the team that puts the choke into college football remembered who it was. Ryan Tannehill was allowed to put the ball into the air 49 times on a night when Texas A&M should have been leaning on its physicality — and Tannehill predictably threw three of those passes into UT hands.

Only a Sherman-coached Aggies team could limit an opponent to 237 yards of total offense and still give up 27 points.

"This is a devastating loss for our team," Sherman said.

What's new? Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas State. It's what the Aggies do.

If only ESPN focused on those storylines with half as much effort as it put into trying to rescue the Longhorn Network. Texas (7-4) may have found its quarterback of the future and a way to end the season in the Top 25 — even if Jaxon Shipley threw the Longhorns' best pass of the night. Texas A&M may have found an un-ignorable reason to go into the SEC with a new head coach.

It was a monumental rivalry ender. And ESPN turned it into a weapon in the pettiest and most inconsequential of cable wars.

Mike Sherman isn't the only one who needs help with his gameplans.