Reconciling with the Big Ten Network

David WilliamsSenior Analyst IJune 27, 2008

If one were to ask me what I thought about the Big Ten Network back in November, I would have been singing a much different tune about this television network than I am now.

In its early stages, I thought of the Big Ten Network as the anti-fan.  It was the evil, money-grubbing power unsympathetic to the thoughts and desires of those whom it entertained.

While the BTN had yet to establish itself as a major player in terms of regional broadcasting, it caused significant distress to the fans of teams who were featured on the station.

Simply put, fans were not able to watch their favorite team when its game was broadcast on the BTN because few cable companies included the network in their basic package.

Last November, along with thousands of Ohio State and Wisconsin fans, I first felt the adverse effects of the Big Ten Network when we weren't able to watch the No. 1-ranked, undefeated Buckeyes face off with the Badgers in a pivotal Big Ten game.

Some of us were able to watch the game at other venues.  Wisconsin fans in a few cities watched the game in movie theaters, and others paid the premium cost to have the network added to their cable package.

But in my case, as a college student who gets whatever channels our school provides, I was out of luck.

So from then on, the Network was my enemy.  My pecking order for things in sports I hate the most went as follows:

1. Michigan Wolverines

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

3. Duke Blue Devils

4. Big Ten Network

5. New England Patriots

6. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Little did I know this hatred would quickly change.

Once the ire of my sports fandom, the Big Ten Network may be one of the best things that happens to me this football season.  And do you know why?

It’s simple, really.  Starting on September 2, the BTN will be following Ron Zook and the Illinois Fighting Illini on an in-depth reality television series throughout their football season.  Their show will be called The Journey.

In addition to the partial game coverage, in which Illinois features one of the more versatile offenses in the conference, Big Ten fans and others interested around the country will get a detailed look at what goes on behind the scenes during the long season.

While I don't have the details of how this will work or what exactly the cameras will be able to film, I can imagine that this will be a novel and exciting idea. 

Just think—wouldn't it would be awesome to see the interactions with the football players and the rest of the students on campus?  Or to see the progression of position battles as the season wore on?

As a college football fan, this would be like personally going through the trials and tribulations of a full college football season—without experiencing the broken bones, bruised ribs, or potential ineligibility in the process.

I've adopted Illinois as my second team in the Big Ten.  While I would never root for them in a head-to-head matchup with my beloved Buckeyes, I'd want them to go 11-1 every year.

Illinois serves as a perfect team to follow because of the intriguing personalities on the team.  From J Leman to Juice Williams to "Regis" Benn to the Zooker himself, the Fighting Illini have plenty of character, and I can't help but root for them.

In this next season, we'll get to see real reality television as Illinois looks to maintain its momentum from last season, though the team has a chance of returning to relative obscurity.

Can Ron Zook overcome the same demons that prevented his Florida teams of winning the national championship?  Can Juice finally stay healthy and show his real potential?  Will he be able to hold off budding star Eddie McGee?

I can see it now.  The Journey: Not some MTV fake drama like The Hills...real people, real games, real television...only on the Big Ten Network

So in summary, kudos to you, Big Ten Network.  Obviously, I took this new television station too lightly.  With features such as The Big Ten's Greatest Games and The Journey, I can keep myself busy with college football in my conference for a long time.

Come September, the BTN will be much better the second time around.  No longer will fans protest in the streets or Midwestern legislatures propose bills for the network's ouster.

And to those of you who still don't have the network as part of your cable provider, I would suggest going with DirecTV.  That's what I did.

I know, I'm a sellout.  I guess my protest didn't last too long.