The Big Mac Blog

Why ESPN’s ‘GameDay’ passed on TCU at Oklahoma State

ESPN College “GameDay” will travel to New York City and Time’s Square this weekend.
ESPN College “GameDay” will travel to New York City and Time’s Square this weekend. AP

The question ranks among the dumbest ever pondered: Why would you choose to go to New York City over Stillwater, Oklahoma?

Have you not been to the Granny Pot, Eskimo Joe’s, toured the National Wrestling Hall of Fame or walked around Boomer Lake Park in scenic Stillwater?

All of the above easily competes, and/or trumps, the two or three sights, attractions and restaurants in New York City.

Nonetheless, the good people at ESPN and, specifically, its wildly popular college “GameDay” crew, are going to Manhattan for this weekend’s round of games. No, no college game is being played in Times Square, where the crew will set up, or in Central Park ... although that’s a good idea.

There are two games this weekend that feature four Top 25 opponents: No. 17 Mississippi State at No. 11 Georgia, and No. 16 TCU at No. 6 Oklahoma State.

Either Athens, Ga., or Stillwater, Okla., would have been a better selection than NYC, but sports TV executives simply can’t quit Manhattan. They are just sure they can penetrate the biggest, most saturated, entertainment market in the world.

They can’t.

And, never forget this, it’s a fun trip for the people involved. Lots of families make this trip whereas none would have gone to Stillwater.

“GameDay” has become a national sports treasure, and while it has picked more unique locales over the years, Times Square never works in these cases. I am biased, but “GameDay” should have gone to Stillwater, a town that would have recognized and appreciated “GameDay.”

New York City won’t even notice Rece Davis, Desmond Howard, Herbie and Corso are there.

An ESPN exec told me that “GameDay” does not visit the “biggest game of ranked opponents” and simply pursues the best story. This person said New York City is something they have wanted to do for years with “GameDay,” and that this had been in the works for months; that this was not a shot at fans of any school, or a slight in any way.

Believe them. Producers routinely try to come up with different concepts, and the visual of a “GameDay” in Times Square is cool. Sometimes you have to try new things, and NYC fits that description for “GameDay.” It just doesn’t work.

The NFL found this out when it selected New York/New Jersey to host the Super Bowl in 2014; sports is lost and not the focal point in New York City. The Super Bowl — the Super Bowl — drowned in Manhattan.

It is similar to what we are witnessing this with the NFL’s return to Los Angeles, where both the Rams and the Chargers can’t sellout. There is too much else to do in LA or NYC.

“Game Day” in Times Square is counter to what “GameDay” is, which is about college. The closest college to the “GameDay” set is national football power Columbia of the Ivy League.

People can get sports, be it NFL or college football, in every other city in the U.S. but you can only get New York in New York. You can only get Broadway on Broadway, or the city’s other internationally famous attractions and nuances that make it such a desirable tourist destination.

If I am a college sports fan in New York City this weekend from out of town, the last thing I am doing is going to Times Square for Game Day. I am going to Central Park. To the Statue of Liberty. To Hamilton. To Greenwich Village. To see the protesters outside of Trump Tower.

There is too much to do in New York City for a college game to have a chance. When it comes to sports, New York City is a Yankees, Giants, Rangers and, yes, Knicks town. College sports, even back in the day when the Big East was relevant and St. John’s was good, enjoyed small windows of relevance in that region.

Regardless, the Big Ten invited Rutgers to join its Midwest-based league specifically because of its proximity to the millions of people who live in the greater New York City area. Predictably, that’s bombed.

What makes “Game Day” so watchable is the atmosphere created by an audience, and a community, that treats it as if New York City has arrived.

In New York City, hell, even in the small area that is Time’s Square, Game Day will be Stillwater, and it will be well down the list.

This is the one instance when Stillwater is a better choice than New York City.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof