More on football explainin’ America


More from today’s column with Sal Paolantonio, on “How Football Explains America” (linked here):

Q: In this time of a financial crisis, can football explain how we’re headed into a recession, when it most often appears to all who watch the game that college and pro football seem to be recession-proof?

A: “I’m not sure they are recession proof. Let’s look at what’s happening with the new NFL stadiums being built in Dallas (pictured above) and New York. The Giants, Jets and Cowboys are having a very difficult time selling exorbitantly priced so-called Personal Seat Licenses. They are charging tens of thousands of dollars for the right to buy a ticket, and they are asking those who in the past did not pay those fees to pony up. For months, there has been stiff resistance on principle. Now, longtime fans can’t afford it or simply cannot borrow the money to pay for a $50,000 seat license.”

Q: The NFL, in particular, seems to stifle the freedom of expression – some call it the No Fun League — which is an essential element of being America. Do you find that counterproductive?

A: “I think Commissioner Roger Goodell is ahead of the curve by enforcing decorum in the game. You don’t want to slide into WWE mode. It’s a game with time-honored traditions, and those help sell the game. So, the league is trying to protect its brand, and thus its investment. Can’t fault them for that. Same goes with Mr. Goodell’s insistence on protecting player safety. The players should be protected. It’s their livelihood and the owners’ investment. But it is tackle football. That is the essence of the game. That should not be diluted.”

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Coming Sunday: How football explains America


That’s the title of the book published recently (Triumph Books, 211 pages, $24.95), authored by Sal Paolantonio in a very thought-provoking manner that fits the pieces of football’s evolution on both the college and pro scale to how the country came together and continues to press upon its ideals forward.

Find it (at this link).

Mark Bowden, author of the new book, “The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL,” probably offers his explanation of Paolantonio’s book on the jacket cover: “So it turns out that Sal Paolantonio doesn’t just talk about football on television, but he really thinks about it! His book is a breezy, conceptual tour through the history of America and of football, showing they are, in fact, one and the same. From war to jazz, from racism to integration, from immigrant waves of Scotch-Irish to Tonga islanders, from dioramas in the display windows of newspapers to ‘Monday Night Football,’ from Jim Thorpe to Eli Manning, the story of the game mirrors the story of our country. Who knew? All those lazy Sunday afternoons on the couch were really anthropological research.”

Paolantonio says he got the idea for this book after reading Michael MacCambridge’s “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a National” and realizing that as good as the book was, it never really explained the “How” in the title. He also notes the Franklin Foer best-seller, “How Soccer Explains The World,” and found a template for the way he could explain football’s impact on America.

We caught up with SalPal for an on-line Q-and-A during his ESPN assignments, asking him to draw some comparisons to today’s United States and the sport. An excerpt:

Q: What does Thanksgiving, the true American holiday, mean to football and visa versa, with examples you’ve used in the book as well as others you may think of this time of year, maybe of giving thanks for health and family and duty to country?

A: Well, the marriage of Thanksgiving and football started purely as a commercial idea — a way to sell tickets to games and advertising in Chicago newspapers. And like most everything else in this country, it has become mythologized. (See Christmas. Macy’s basically created the idea of shopping and giving on a grand scale on Christmas — commercializing it.) But what I like about Thanksgiving is how it helps explain America through football. With local Turkey Bowl games all over the country, Americans have taken ownership of the tradition. We’ve democratized it, just like Fantasy Football has democratized the NFL. Used to be that you would bet on a team put together by somebody else — a coach or general manager. Now, you invest financially and emotionally on teams you have assembled in your fantasy leagues (and I do mean plural). People of have taken ownership of the mythology. That is how football explains us as a people.


A link (here) to the history of Amos Alonzo Stagg helping to form the Chicago-Michigan game back in the late 1890s.

More Sunday …

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Sky’s the limit for Texas’ lobbying effort


The Associated Press

STILLWATER, Okla. — The BCS campaign between Oklahoma and Texas is heading for the sky.

University of Texas students and fans have raised around $7,000, part of which has paid for a pilot to fly over Stillwater before Saturday’s game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

The plan is for a plane to fly a banner during the ESPN’s “GameDay” pre-game show (7 to 9 a.m. PDT) with the inscription “45-35″ — the score of Texas’ victory over Oklahoma on Oct. 11.

Texas is second in the BCS rankings, followed closely by Oklahoma at No. 3.

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The media learning curve: Beyond the Dubiousness, Papa isn’t preaching

If we had done a “normal” media column this week, maybe some of this would have made it in. Probably not:


== Oh, to be Bob Papa.
Thursday, he did the play-by-play on the Thanksgiving Day broadcast of Arizona-Philadelphia for the NFL Network.
Saturday, he’s doing play-by-play on the Grambling-Southern college football game for NBC from New Orleans.
Then, he somehow has to get to Ontario (not Canada, but that outpost near Riverside) by 7 p.m. local time Saturday for HBO’s broadcast (with Max Kellerman) for the a “Boxing After Dark” telecast (airing at 10 p.m., delayed in the West) between Paul Williams-Verno Phillips and Chris Arreola-Travis Walker from the new Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Sunday, he’s going back across the country to do the New York Giants (he’s their radio play-by-play man) as they are in Washington D.C. with a 1 p.m. local kickoff.
Oh, wait. We knew it was too nuts to be true.
NBC was incorrect when it issued a press release Wednesday saying that Papa would be doing the football game Saturday. Tom Hammond is calling that game instead. Papa confirmed as much with an email on Wednesday as well.
Thank goodness.
“Yes, this entire week has been crazy for me starting this past Sunday in Arizona with the Giants,” Papa said from his Blacberry. “Plus throwing in my Giants TV shows and my Sirius NFL radio show each morning has made this a challenging week.”


== CBS will bring Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebanks to “join the guys live on the set to help them with their NFL picks” Sunday, according a netowk release.
Oh, right. Because CBS is carrying the annual V.S. Fashion Show on Wednesday at 10 p.m. (linked here). You know Fox would cross promote it as well if it had the opportunity.
This also means it could be the first time all season you’ve seen the CBS NFL pregame show. It has JB. And the good Boomer. And another old quarterback. And a loquacious former NFL tight end. And a recently retired coach. And still, a cartoon guy named Thurston Long … he’s not there?
Something like that.

== The Associated Press reported Monday that the NFL “quietly changed its policy this season” to allow more viewers to see games on the NFL Network. It affects only a small number of viewers in outlying areas of the cities of the teams who are in the game. Those games were always simulcast by the NFL Network on a local, over-the-air channel to an area that the NFL decided was the “home market.” The games, however, were blacked out last season on cable systems that carried that local station outside the home market. Now those systems’ subscribers will be able to watch. Those who don’t get the local channel on their cable system, however, still won’t see the games unless they receive NFL Network.
“It made more sense to us upon reflection that if a cable station was carrying the programing 24-7 that it be allowed to carry our NFL Network games,” NFL executive vice president Joe Browne said.
Thursday’s Eagles-Cardinals game on the NFL Network was simulcast on WPVI in Philadelphia; viewers in Harrisburg, York, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre who already got the station on cable were also able to see it on that channel. But the Phoenix station airing the game isn’t on any cable systems outside the home market, so no additional fans will had access.

== Yup, NBC is already promoting its coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics from Vancouver. The first ads ran during the network’s telecast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and during the National Dog Show on Thursday. “This isn’t a start of the campaign so much as a nod to the success of Beijing and a way to introduce Vancouver as a unique setting and one of the most beautiful places in North America,” said Mike McCarley, the NBC VP of strategic marketing, told the Sports Business Daily.

==ESPNU has the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship Selection Show on Sunday at 7 p.m., hosted by Beth Mowins with analyst Karch Kiraly. The ESPN network’s coverage of the event starts Dec. 13 with all four Regional Finals live on ESPNU. The title match is Saturday, Dec. 20 at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.


== Have we got caught up on the Kenny Mayne “Mayne Street” series?
Seems not.
They do evoke a laugh or two, or three, and may really be setting the template for future endeavors on the Internet for the ADD way of viewing a series that otherwise would be fighting for time and sponsorship on a major network.

Catching you up:
Here’s episode 5, and wait for that classic line: “Kenny, where are your pants?”

And episode 4, “Kenny The Clown” with “sorry, my arm is stuck”:

And episode 3, “Poker,” with Neil Everett, wearing a viser and ear piece, and Chris McKendry as the fourth wheel:

After each episode, stick around for the outtakes.
We’ve already delivered the first two episodes. More to come….

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Even more dubious? Maybe these aren’t top-dozen material, but if you’re keeping track …


Adding to today’s column of the Dubious Dozen of the Sports Media for 2008 (linked here), we offer these leftovers, some of which, we have no follow-up news to deliver:

The culprit: Danyelle Sargent and Mike Francessa
The crime: Sent by Fox to be a sideline reporter at asked to interview new 49ers head coach Mike Singletary, Sargent bungled a question so badly that it had to be stopped and re-asked. The problem is, the video of that first question, when she asked Singletary if he called the late Bill Walsh upon being hired, was captured on a satellite feed and broadcast on a New York TV show hosted by Francessa, and repeated across the Internet, as well as the Versus show “Sports Soup.”
==A clip of the Francessa clip of Sargent (linked here)
The aftermath: Fox said it would file a protest with the NFL for unauthorized use of the video. Sargent, who once dropped the “F” word during a open mike when she worked on ESPNEWS two years ago, has not been on the Fox NFL telecast since that October day.
After a day when the Internet gave her a migraine and she “stayed in bed for like five hours,” Sargent explained how she asked new Singletary about a phone call to Walsh, who died in July 2007.
On Dan Patrick’s syndicated radio show, Sargent said: “I misspoke. What I meant to say is, ‘I heard he was one of the first phone calls that you made when you decided that you wanted to get into coaching.’ . . . I didn’t even realize that I misspoke, and then the producer at the game in my ear says, ‘Wait, stop.’
“I don’t see how anyone could have thought that it was on air because I stopped in the middle of the interview. There was no toss-back. I stopped in the middle of the interview and started talking to my producer. And I’ve never seen anyone do that during a game.”
Said NFL senior VP of media operations Howard Katz: “To use an outtake was unfair. If it had been on the broadcast, it would have been fair game.”
“Obviously a mistake was made,” Francesa told the New York Times. “If we’d known that, we wouldn’t have used it.”



The culprit: ESPN
The crime: In November, an advertisement pitch that was supposedly made to the all-sports network was released to the blog (linked here), and later reported on in USA Today. Anomaly, a New York ad agency, planned an ad campaign for ESPN specifying what it wanted actors to do in portraying students from different colleges who were working in “the ESPN College Basketball Call Center (CBBCC),” people on the phone “to get them to watch more College Basketball. Basically they are selling college basketball.”
But what type of stereotypes did they need to exploit?
The memo said that, for example, a Tennessee co-ed needed to be “slutty” and “crazy.” The “defining characteristic” of the Marquette student is “you don’t really remember her.” Syracuse would need a “Jewish kid” who loves college — “all-you-can-eat buffets in the cafeteria, who knew?” A student from “Perdue” needed to look 14.
The aftermath: ESPN canceled the campaign.
“Our marketing department just learned of this casting call today,” said ESPN’s Mike Soltys. “The language and approach reflected in that document were not approved by us and in no way represent ESPN or the respect we have for the college community.”

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The money pit: Maybe athletes aren’t such a solid investment any more


By Eddie Pells
The Associated Press

Turns out, Tiger Woods wouldn’t really rather have a Buick. At least not anymore.

When Woods ended his nine-year relationship with General Motors Corp. on Monday — a mutual decision between a megawatt celebrity who doesn’t need the work and a teetering corporation that needs every penny — it offered yet another snapshot of how badly the American economy has deteriorated.

Woods is the world’s most marketable athlete with an estimated $100 million endorsements a year. If his agreement with one of the world’s most active sports sponsors broke apart, some experts to wonder if any endorsement or sponsorship deal is really ironclad in these tough times.

“The real story here isn’t Tiger,” says Marc Ganis, the president of Sportscorp Ltd., a Chicago-based sports consulting firm. “It’s the auto industry. … There are a lot of parties who are going to have some difficulties finding sponsors to substitute for what the auto industry used to provide.”

LeBron James ($28 million in endorsements according to Sports Illustrated’s 2007 figures), Peyton Manning ($13 million) and those in the top-circle elite don’t have so much to worry about because, like Woods, they have multiple deals spread over several industries.

As for everyone else — well, Ganis figures they will feel the pain. If money from the auto industry and financial world dries up, athletes and events that are lower in the pecking order will get thirsty.

“You’ve just got to be much more creative,” said Evan Morgenstein, an agent for gymnast Nastia Liukin, swimmer Dara Torres and other Olympic athletes.

Calls to the representatives of about a half-dozen top-name athletes and their agents by The Associated Press showed that Woods and those in his stratosphere will have very little trouble making endorsement money, even in a rough economy.

Manning is spread into a number of industries — cell phones, satellite TV, electronics, credit cards.

James and Microsoft have ended a two-year marketing partnership, though James’ manager, Maverick Carter, didn’t mention the Microsoft deal earlier this week when he responded to an AP e-mail asking if the economy might hurt James’ endorsements.

“We have long-term deals with great partners who aren’t going anywhere,” Carter said.

James was similarly upbeat.

“I know I have great relationships with the partners that I have,” he said. “All of them are long-term deals, so I can only comment on what I have. And looking forward there’s always going to be deals out there.”

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‘Disenfranchise’? What’s that, like a McDonald’s that’s been blown up?

i-98949f916646a353dd8f0871ad9cc75d-baby_narrowweb__300x454,0.jpg reports today (linked here) that the National Association of Broadcasters is issuing a warning to policy makers and Congress about the potential impact of ESPN’s winning exclusive rights to air most of the Bowl Championship Series. The new deal takes much of the series off broadcast TV and moves it to basic cable.

In a policy statement today, NAB’s board of directors said the move would “disenfranchise” millions of viewers.

“Broadcasters continue to support the rights of all Americans to have free access to telecasts of major sporting events, particularly those of publicly funded educational institutions,” the resolution said.

It directed the NAB staff to educate policy makers “on the importance of ensuring that no segments of society are disenfranchised from this highly valued programming.”

Last week, the BCS announced that ESPN had outbid Fox for the rights to the series of games and would begin airing the games starting in 2011. ESPN’s offer was said to be $500 million over four years. Fox bid $400 million, up from the $330 million it’s paying under its current four-year deal.


Somewhat in the same area code, you can also check out Jason Whitlock’s latest take on what he thinks today of ESPN (linked here).
We’ll make it easy:
“ESPN is the enemy of the truth, and all who believe a pursuit of the truth is the lifeblood of a genuinely free society must stand against the Wal-Mart-ization of sports journalism. I reached this conclusion when trying to figure out why Ball State quarterback Nate Davis isn’t one of the top-five Heisman Trophy candidates and Ball State coach Brady Hoke isn’t the front-runner for national coach of the year.”
Aside from the fact Whitlock is a Ball State grad …
There’s more:
“ESPN is so financially tied to the organizations it covers and so devoid of basic journalistic ethics that it cannot properly analyze the sports world. ESPN just bought the BCS television package. It has a vested interest in promoting all things BCS. If you’re going to televise multiple Big 12 games in primetime on ABC and ESPN, you have every reason to promote the myth that the majority of Heisman Trophy candidates play in the Big 12.”
Thank you, and the closing comment:
“Sports media is dying by suicide and ESPN is Dr. Jack Kevorkian. You’re dying, too. ESPN just hasn’t told you yet.”

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DWTS scoreboard — WSapp, No. 2; BBurke, No. 1 hot mom


The fact we’re finally getting around to mentioning this today, hours after Tuesday’s “Dancing With The Stars” finale aired on ABC, is an indication of where our interest went in Season 7.

Lukewarm at first, watching Warren Sapp bust a few moves, and Misty May get all dolled up. Then she got hurt, and Maurice Green was never on the radar, so we kept up with Sapp, enough to do a story on how he’s able to juggle his dancing along with appearing on the NFL Network on Sundays as well as “Inside the NFL” in New Jersey on Wednesdays, and it played out to the very end.

Sapp (above with Kym Johnson) was not the winner, as projected, but the fact he finished eight points behind winner Brooke Burke – and ahead of Lance Bass – was a victory in itself. Sapp’s technique was often criticized by the judges, but head judge Len Goodman said: “From the moment you start, you make me smile.”

Now Sapp can relax and stick to calling other network analysts femine names that rhyme with “itch.”

Sapp’s sappy performance ends a streak: The last four winners of DWTS had been athletes — Emmitt Smith, Apolo Anton Ohno, Helio Castroneves and Kristi Yamaguchi.

Although, Burke, the mother of four, may be considered a jock after this banana split move in the Monday final:


Early Neilsen ratings released this afternoon show that the Tuesday finale had a 5.1 rating for the 18-to-49 demo, that’s 20 percent down from last fall’s final episode, and six percent down from the spring edition finale. It didn’t help that “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” was sucking away viewers on the other channel.

So how about one more look of another costume ensemble that Sapp and Johnson wore:

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Coming Friday: The Annual Dubious Dozen of the Sports Media on parade for all to oogle


The 2008 list isn’t all that crazy. Not Marv Albert in a dress crazy, if that’s what you’re referencing. But a lot of female presence for some reason. Like Erin Andrews in a dress crazy.

And even more crazy chick stuff. Talking about lynching Tiger Woods. Invoking the name of Hitler. Boozing it up at a (supposed private) celebrity roast. Wearing something not appropriate to work (above).

Good never comes of those things.

Which is why they’ve made our twisted list again — some repeat offenders.
Why do we keep doing this? Boredom? An easy way to fill in a column during a holiday week? Because it’s the stuff that never gets old?

Check all three of those off, plus the fact people don’t seem to learn from their mistakes. Anyone who makes a reference on a sports program about another person’s ethnicity, religious belief, freedom of speech or (this list goes on) becomes fair game for targeting.

The Internet bloggers feast on this stuff, waiting for someone to trip over their tongue. But it goes far past that, which is why we’ve left No. 12 on the Dubous Dozen to all the other “foot meets mouth” instances where “gotcha” only goes so far. An apology usually follows. And it’s forgotten. But linked perpetually on some website for easy cross referencing.

Kelly Tilghman, Jemele Hill, Dana Jacobson and Erin Andrews (pictured above, in a dress she wore to a Cubs-Brewers game that caused Chicago manager Lou Pinella to ask if she was working or modeling), thanks for playing along in 2008. Jay Mariotti, Buzz Bissinger, Johnny Miller, Ric Bucher . . . you’re in there, too.

After Friday’s column, we’ll present a few others that didn’t make the list, but were nonetheless entertaining to an extent.

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L.A.’s college football TV schedule Week 14: There’ll be no GameDay for you


You’d have thought the boys at ESPN’s “College GameDay” would make at least one more trip to L.A., following up on their excursion outside the Coliseum for the USC-Ohio State contest way back in early September. This Saturday’s USC-Notre Dame contest ain’t bad. It ain’t glamorous either, when you put it up next to …

Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State?

Uh, Okie dokie.

Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and Desmond Howard found out late Sunday that’s where they’ll be eating cold turkey sandwiches, in Stillwater, Okla., outside of Boone Pickens Stadium, before the No. 3 Sooners, coming off their distruction of previous No. 2 (and now No. 7) Texas Tech, face the No. 12 Cowboys. Herbstreit sticks around to do the game that night at 5 p.m.

According to a post on, this could be the first time since 2003 that GameDay hasn’t setup at more than one USC game in a season. It could still make it out to the USC-UCLA game at the Rose Bowl next week (Dec. 6), but that’s pretty unlikely, since that day, Alabama probably links up with Florida in the SEC title game (which will be on CBS).

While ESPN2 hosts UCLA on Friday and ESPN has USC on Saturday, Versus has the game with all the Rose Bowl implications: Oregon at Oregon State at 4 p.m.


==Friday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2 and UCLA at Arizona State (with Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman and Rob Stone)
==Saturday, 5 p.m., ESPN: Notre Dame at No. 5 USC (10-1) (with Mike Patrick, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe)

Here’s the rest of the week:


== 4 p.m., ESPN2 and Western Michigan at No. 15 Ball State (11-0) (with Todd Harris and Ray Bentley
==4 p.m., ESPN Classic and Navy at Northern Illinois (with Eric Collins and Shaun King)


== 5 p.m., ESPN and Texas A&M at No. 2 Texas (10-1) (with Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer and Erin Andrews)


== 9 a.m., Channel 7: West Virginia at No. 25 Pittsburgh (7-3) (with Dave Lamont and Brock Huard)
==9:30 a.m., ESPNU: Ohio at Miami (Ohio) (with Dave Ryan and Jay Taylor)
==10 a.m., CBS College Sports: UTEP at East Carolina (with Tom Hart and Brian Jones)
==11:30 a.m., Channel 2 and LSU at Arkansas (with Don Criqui and Dan Fouts)
==12:30 p.m., Channel 7: Colorado at Nebraska (with Ron Franklin, Ed Cunningham and Jack Arute)
==12:30 p.m., ESPN Classic and Bowling Green at Toledo (with Todd Harris and Shaun King)
==3 p.m., ESPN2 and Fresno State at No. 9 Boise State (11-0) (with Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore)


==9 a.m., Channel 2 and No. 22 Georgia Tech (8-3) at No. 11 Georgia (9-2) (with Craig Bolerjack and Trev Alberts)
==9 a.m., ESPN and Virginia at Virginia Tech (with Dave Pasch, Andre Ware and Todd Harris)
==9 a.m., ESPN2 and South Carolina at Clemson (with Terry Gannon and David Norrie)
==9 a.m., ESPNU: NCAA Football Championship Subdivision: South Carolina State at Appalachian State (first round) (with Dave Armstrong and Larry Coker)
==9:30 a.m., FSN West: Kansas vs. No. 13 Missouri (9-2) in St. Louis (with Bill Land, Dave Lapham and Jim Knox)

==11 a.m., Channel 4: Bayou Classic: Grambling State vs. Southern in New Orleans (with Tom Hammond, Don McPherson, Charles Davis, Derrin Horton and Lewis Johnson hosting the telecast).

==12:30 p.m., Channel 7: No. 4 Florida (10-1) at No. 20 Florida State (8-3) (with Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire and Stacey Dales)
==12:30 p.m., Channel 2 and Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (11-0) (with Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson)
==12:30 p.m., ESPN2 and Maryland at No. 21 Boston College (8-3) (with Pam Ward and Ray Bentley
==12:30 p.m., ESPNU: North Carolina at Duke (with Doug Bell and Charles Arbuckle)
==12:30 p.m., Versus: Baylor at No. 7 Texas Tech (10-1) (with Ron Thulin, Kelly Stouffer and Craig Hummer)
==12:30 p.m., CBS College Sports: Houston at Rice (with Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor)

==3:30 p.m., ESPN2 and Kentucky at Tennessee (with Mark Jones, Bob Davie and Erin Andrews)


==4 p.m., Versus: No. 23 Oregon (8-3) at No. 17 Oregon State (8-3) (with Tim Neverett, Glenn Parker and Anne Marie Anderson)
==4 p.m., ESPNU: Vanderbilt at Wake Forest (with Clay Matvick and David Diaz-Infante)
==5 p.m., Channel 7: No. 3 Oklahoma (10-1) at No. 12 Oklahoma State (9-2) (with Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Lisa Salters)

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