It's fitting that this news broke on the same day that analog television goes the way of the 8-track, Commodore 64 and smoke signals. The Rose Bowl, starting in 2011, will no longer shown on network television. It will move to ESPN, which means all of the BCS bowls will be on the Worldwide Leader.
It feels strange that this feels like a big deal, but it does. After all, there's not much difference between one set of numbers and another when you're punching digits into a remote control. And we've known for some time that the other BCS bowls and the national title game were going to be on ESPN, so this isn't particularly surprising. But it does feel like a big deal, and not because of the fact that there are still plenty of people in this country who can't afford cable television.
The move really stinks for those people, of course, but the reason why it feels like such a big loss is because it is another reminder that sports has moved from its own place in the cultural firmament to just being another part of a larger entertainment galaxy. Because it has remained on January 1st, the Rose Bowl has always felt like part of our national celebration of a new year, something that was shared across the country in a way that very few things are shared anymore.
Now, with some big and obvious exceptions, sports are just another program to slot in among reality shows and cable news and movie channels and everything else that fractures the country into different demographic slots and interest groups. That's too bad, because we could use more things that are experienced on a communal level and those things should be as easy to access as possible.
Things change, we'll get used to it and life marches on, but it's bittersweet nonetheless.