Reader Gary Billings sent an email the other day. He seemed quite addled.
“A travesty has occurred!” Gary wrote. “My cable system has pushed the Longhorn Network onto my sports package. It's likely a slight sliver of my monthly payment for my service is ending up in Austin, TX! Should I man the barricades?”
Man the barricades or stage a sit-in or shoot up your flat screen, I don't claim to know the proper antidote for such a breach of decorum. But I think the answer is, don't sweat it.
The Longhorn Network, which caused such angst in the Big 12 a year ago, now seems passe. Texas A&M fled for the Southeastern Conference, in large part because of Texas' television partnership with ESPN. Missouri joined the Aggies, for less specific reasons that could be traced to general uneasiness with a league that seemed divided into haves and have-nots.
But now, the Big 12 has a buffo television contract pending for all members and the Longhorn Network, despite little traction so far in the cable world, is as much of Big 12 life as September cream puffs and November winds.
Billings was ambushed because the Longhorn Network reached an agreement last week with AT&T's U-verse. Bevo TV still hasn't made it to the other top television providers in Texas. Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Charter Communications, DirecTV and Dish Network.
That will come, eventually. ESPN wields too much clout not to get Bevo distributed, and no one seems to care. At least no one outside of stunned anti-Texas fans.
“I think the Longhorn Network is a given,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the other day. “We are going forward with that as a given and we are going forward with what other people are doing with their third-tier rights. Are they all painted with the same brush? No, not necessarily.”
Of course not. Texas will make tons more money than anyone else. And that is different how?
“As you recall, it never bothered me a bit,” Bob Stoops said. “I've said all along, they've always had more money than everybody. It never seemed to matter, as long as they don't get a recruiting advantage. And who cares if they get more money? We've got plenty to operate with. Heck, we had $7 million extra to give to academics. So we're not hurting.”
That's a good attitude. If money bought championships, Mack Brown would not trail Stoops 7-2 in Big 12 titles.
Still, it's an interesting week in Big 12 football. Third-tier rights dominate play.
Texas hosts New Mexico on the Longhorn Network. OU hosts Florida A&M on pay-per-view, perhaps because the Sooners haven't got their own network up and running yet or maybe because pay-per-view is more lucrative.
OSU is at Arizona in a game televised by the Pac-12 Network, which exists in lieu of each school forging its own way. Which means Oklahomans can't watch it, barring negotiation breakthroughs Friday.
Iowa State is at Iowa in a game televised by the Big Ten Network. And Texas Tech plays at Texas State in a game that will go untelevised, because Tech threatened not to show up if Texas State gave the game to Bevo TV.
Eight Big 12 games this week. Five affected by the new system of conference or school networks. Mostly means we can't watch games we want to watch.
“That's just one of the things you work with,” Bowlsby said. Same with the Longhorn Network. It's become accepted. Perhaps not loved. Perhaps not even respected. But accepted.
“Are members complaining about it?” Bowlsby asked. “No. In large measure, the groups came to closure on certain aspects of how that was going to work, prior to when I got here. I can't take any credit for that.”
No one deserves credit. It was organic. What once seemed to divisive now seems like no big deal, except to the fans, whose pennies go to Austin and whose games go unseen.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.