Thursday, December 11, 2014

Geography, schmeography

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany isn't the first guy to wish he didn't live in fly-over America. Hey, we all want to be a hit on Broadway, don't we?

And so the instant the Big Ten added Rutgers and Maryland, slapping geography in the face with an almost comic stretching of its footprint, you knew yesterday would come. You knew the goal was to put itself in big-ticket East Coast venues without appearing to have materialized from outer space. Or, you know, Iowa.

Adding Maryland and Rutgers gave it the excuse to do that, and so the Big Ten will be bringing its basketball tournament to the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. in 2017, and to Madison Square Garden in 2018. And Delany has already hinted it won't be a one-time deal.

This despite the fact that, with the exception of three schools, the Big Ten begins in Columbus, Ohio, and doesn't end until it hits the Great Plains.

And yet ... geography is one thing, cold hard cash another. And if adding Rutgers and Maryland wasn't about tapping into the lucrative East Coast television markets, what was it about?

Certainly not loyalty to the traditional fan bases that made you what are. So 1990s, that.

Putting the Big Ten basketball tournament in venues hundreds of miles from its geographical center might be shrewd business, but it's also a greedy cash grab for a conference hierarchy that never met a dollar it wouldn't pursue to the gates of hell. Those two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they hardly ever are.

So it's a good move for the conference monetarily.  But it's also an outright betrayal of its base, a hob-nailed boot to the cherries of the fans who made the Big Ten basketball tournament a valuable property to begin with.

 Why, you can almost hear the refrain, can't you?

Yeah, um, well, sorry, all you folks out there in Champaign and Madison. We're taking our show to New York. Sure, it'll cost you hundreds of dollars more now to follow your teams. And it'll screw up the regular season because we're hacking a week off it to make it happen.

But what do we care? It's a chance to tap into all that New York loot. So, you know, nice knowin' ya.  The sticks were fun, and you gomers made us a lot of money. Have fun milkin' the cows and stuff.


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