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ESPN wants you to care about Aaron Judge so much they’ll ruin your college football

This is what you’re paying for with a subscription to the WWL: Watching sports you don’t want to see during sports you do.

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees hits his 61st home run of the season in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on September 28, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

I’m very happy for Aaron Judge. He’s doing an Important Baseball Thing, and for people that watch and enjoy baseball, I’m glad they have something that keeps them captivated as the season comes to a close. Yay Manfredball or something.

What I’m not happy about is that plenty of Important College Football is also happening this weekend, and the Rodentia-based Corporate Overlord that runs The Best Sport has decided that Judge’s pursuit of home runs matters so much that it’s worth taking people away from the game they wanted to watch.

I’m a resident of Tampa that’s currently hurricane-refugeeing in New Orleans. If ESPN wanted to cut into games to tell me to evacuate, or that City Hall is currently on its side thanks to storm surge, that’s fine. That might be pertinent information or important to public safety, and that’s understandable.

But there are 9000 channels available to me at the flip of a switch. If I wanted to watch the Yankees play the Orioles, I would flip on MLB Network via my consumer streaming package. The beauty of sports in the 21st Century is everything is available to you if you’re willing to pay the fees to access that channel.

I don’t pay ESPN via AT&T TV, as well as an added fee monthly for a recently-increased ESPN+ subscription, to watch baseball. I also don’t pay for their cricket, tennis, lacrosse, or kabaddi coverage (it’s literally tag with breathing rules, seriously). But the marketplace has determined the best way for me to get what I want (college football and basketball, extra PGA Tour streams, lots of volleyball and soccer) is to pay for some things I don’t. I’m not thrilled with the current media rights environment, but I’m ok with and understand the rules currently in place.

On Friday I want to see the Tulane Green Wave take on a Houston Cougars team that seems to be in a marginal crisis on Friday night in their last American Conference battle. Years of bragging rights are on the line before UH goes to the Big 12, and both teams and coaches really need this game.

Saturday at 12 p.m. ET will see Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford become of the great venues in all of sports as No. 7 Kentucky and No. 14 Ole Miss go at it, with both schools undefeated. I’ve had this game circled since before the season, and Will Levis vs. Jaxson Dart should be terrific theater as two historical SEC also-rans will have most of the CFB spotlight.

On Sunday the SMU Mustangs head to Oviedo to take on the Central Florida Knights for both school’s AAC opener at 12 p.m., and the loser might be eliminated from the American Conference title game with a loss. And that means no chance at a New Year’s Six bowl game, because unlike MLB, literally every game and every moment in college football matters.

Just let me watch college football as intended, ESPN! If you want to put a graphic on the screen or tell the play-by-play guy to let the audience know Judge is on deck, that’s cool. I’m not some sort of athletics absolutist here.

But for college football fans wanting to watch the games they paid for in full, that’s simply not going to be possible as of 7:05 pm ET on Friday, 1:05 p.m. Saturday, and 1:35 p.m. Sunday. Because the Yankees, who have already clinched the AL East and are literally playing out the string, will be facing an Orioles team that’s going to come up a few games short of the playoffs. And ESPN is going to make you watch it anyway.

So we’ll just have to hope that some of the inevitable 15-pitch at-bats from Judge don’t crossover with anything important happening in games that actually matter in the standings.

Is this the end of the world? Of course not. But what we’ve been promised for decades is that the new way of watching live sports and movies and serial television is that it will be on-demand and how you want to consume it. And that’s not what’s happening here.

Just let fans choose what they want to watch, Large-eared Monopolistic Monolith. We pay for dozens of streams and channels, and we know how to find what we want.

Just allow the viewer to make their choice, don’t make it for them because it’s a Yankee. And don’t tell me you’d be doing this if it was a Minnesota Twin, because I simply don’t believe you.