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Say good bye to the JP

For those of you who havent heard, Jefferson Pilot Sports, long the television broadcaster of all games Kentucky, will no longer be providing any coverage of SEC Football games this year. Yes, control your emotions. JP is gone….Lincoln Financial is in.

I could make lots of jokes about the whole JP Sports era, but it has been done and very, very well by Clay Travis a SPIN columnist over on Sportsline. I wanted to link to the article but could not get it to work. Thus I am going to reprint it here, something I dont like to do but I will until the link works. Remember this is Clay Travis’ work and it is GREAT:

Shut the door to your office so your coworkers can’t see you cry. Get the box of tissues and place it next your keyboard. If you’re at home, make sure your wife is watching DVR’ed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy before you read any further. Put the kids to bed — they don’t need to see you like this. They’re too young to know the pain of loss. Just to be safe, go ahead and pull up and minimize that Web site featuring scantily clad women that always makes you feel better. It’s going to be that painful. Okay, deep breath … deep breath. Focus on the ceiling … okay, here it comes: Jefferson Pilot’s SEC sports telecasts are no more.

It got you right in the solar plexus, didn’t it? Your wind is gone. I know … think Drew Barrymore in Ever After and just breathe (Not that you or I have ever seen that movie). Easy there hombre, the world as you know it has not ended. You’re still here, not gone. The sun is going to rise and set, the world will still spin, Pluto may or may not still be a planet and JP Sports is gone. Sometimes you have to ache just to know you’re alive.

Without Jefferson Pilot, watching Kentucky football games will be eerily different. (Getty Images)
Okay, two paragraphs of false pain is about as much as I can stomach. Let’s be honest, there has never been a worse American produced sports telecast than Jefferson Pilot’s coverage of SEC sports. JP Sports’ SEC coverage answered the following question: “What would happen if you gave the guys who never left the audio-visual room at your high school the production rights to a major college telecast and approximately three cameras?” Except JP was not as good as those guys would have been. How bad were they? JP is the only sports production company whose name is preceded at least 80 percent of the time by an expletive. “F’in JP” should have been the company’s slogan. It would have had total recall in the South.

Since 1992, JP’s SEC football telecasts have been responsible for more early morning Southern drinking than any other single event not involving NASCAR. Their 11:30 a.m. Central telecast has led to more unshowered students, angry alumni and disappointed football fans than any telecast in the history of college football.

JP’s ability to turn an otherwise pleasant evening game into an early morning slugfest at a temperature approaching 110 degrees was without parallel in the annals of modern sports history. As the early morning beer flowed, JP’s name was cursed to high heaven.

And man, were those morning telecasts bad. Putrid, really. Walk into any Southern living room, watch a JP telecast, and you could tell in about five seconds that you had just stepped into a foyer filled with incompetence. The telecasts reeked of error, ill-preparation and downright horrible decisions. It was not uncommon for JP to misspell a team or coaches’ name.

It’s pretty bad when an announcer forgets which game he was calling or when a cameraman films the center of the field for a few plays while the team advanced beyond the scope of his lens. Yet for all of these flaws, JP attained, at times, a certain measure of transcendent beauty like only things that are incredibly ugly can manage. Remember the World’s Ugliest Dog? It was so ugly everyone became convinced it was cute. Or what about the right fielder in Little League whose play was so atrocious he became the team’s mascot? For women, think Jamie Foxx.

Ultimately, JP became a cultural connection that was distinctly Southern. They say the French initially hated the Eiffel Tower because it was considered so garish and indiscreet. All of Paris seethed. But then something strange happened: The Eiffel Tower’s grotesqueries came to represent Paris. Someday, I thought in the back of my mind, the absolute atrocity of JP’s sports telecast was going to lead to a similarly unexpected devotion.

Alas, this was not to be. JP is no more. Now, our fifth-tier SEC games are going to be brought to us by the cold and unwelcoming folks at Lincoln Financial. I think they’re probably even Yankees. This is going to require me to refine ClayNation Canon No. 124: If someone says JP and you don’t immediately think of the SEC telecast, you aren’t from the South.

But here at ClayNation, we come not to bury JP, but to honor it. So without further ado, here are 13 classic moments, facts and memories that defined the Jefferson Pilot sports viewing experience for several generations of SEC football fans beginning in 1992:

1. Their sports scores. Jefferson-Pilot shunned fancy contraptions and fads like the “telegraph,” “Morse Code” and “the Internet” in favor of more reliable methods of communication such as carrier pigeons. JP’s sports score motto might as well have been, “There’s never a finished game we can’t give you a first quarter score for.” If JP did current events, midway through last year’s UT-Kentucky game, this would have scrolled across the bottom of the screen: “Neil Armstrong walked on the moon today … one small step for man, one gnat lap for mankind.” Moments later, this score update would have trickled by: “Georgia Tech 126 Cumberland 0 (Halftime).”

2. The yellow dominated color scheme and graphical accompaniment straight from the 1980’s that made Tecmo Super Bowl look advanced. I halfway expected for JP to steal Tecmo Super Bowl’s graphic of the player running out of the hospital to accompany players returning from injury. Put it this way, if you put a live telecast of a JP football game up against a basketball game from the 1980’s on ESPN Classic, you’d be hard pressed to tell which one was current based on the quality of the picture.

3. Somehow, JP could have a silk purse and end up giving you a sow’s ear. Amazing touchdown pass of 90 yards? Sorry. JP was blocking the screen to update you on breaking news about Georgia Tech leaving the SEC. Huge goal line fumble? Tough luck — JP has already put the score on the board and gone to commercial. JP’s incompetence was almost an art-form. Meet abstract footballism.

4. Dave Rowe. Dave Neal and Dave Baker. Say hello to the two announcers and sideline reporter for JP. Yep, all three have the same name. If you haven’t experienced this announcing triumvirate of tomfoolery, consider yourself fortunate. Just imagine, it’s like having three Bob Davie’s calling one game. And the Dave humor. My God, if one more joke was made about them all sharing the name Dave, I felt like their producer was going to jump out of the broadcast booth tethered to a boom mike that was, inevitably, not working.

5. The purple pill Nexium first down line. This was just way too much technology for JP. First of all, the line was never correct. A player would cross the line by a yard and it would be fourth down or a player would come up about a yard short and get the first down. Second, the purple line always ended up bisecting someone. Nexium’s selection was strangely appropriate, however, since the JP telecast inevitably caused heartburn among everyone who watched it.

6. The music. God, who didn’t love the JP music. It was like something from a Las Vegas variety show in 1958. JP resolutely refused to leave behind the build-up to the climactic clash of the cymbal in the song. It was like every chord of their theme song had its very own punchline.

7. The “you’ve got to be kidding me” face at a sports bar outside the South when you inquired if they would be showing the JP game. Any SEC fan who has ever tried to watch a JP game on satellite outside the South knows exactly what I’m talking about. The sports bar guy looks at you like you’ve just asked him if they serve cherry martinis. “J.P.?” the non-Southerner would ask turning the station’s letters into a drawn out question. Yep, JP.

8. The way JP telecasts could bring together people who otherwise didn’t know each other. When I arrived in the Virgin Islands, I met Jeff, a fellow lawyer and Florida grad clerking in the Caribbean. This was one of our first conversations: Me: “Yeah, I’ve got the college football package on Dish Network so you can come hang out any Saturday and watch games.” Jeff: (Eyes aglow with hope) “Does that package get the JP games?” Me: “Oh yeah.” Jeff: “JP, awesome.” (Multiple fist pumps) “Yes, JP.”

We’re still friends.

9. How every game was an upset in the making. JP always got about the fifth choice in televising games. And some weeks, there are only five SEC games. This meant that inevitably, JP chose one of two types of games: A perennial champ tramples a perennial lightweight (think Florida vs. Kentucky) or two teams no one cares about battling for fifth place in their respective divisions (think Vandy vs. Miss. State).

Without a doubt, when a favorite played an underdog, there was an “upset in the making.” Since 1992, JP would latch onto the most innocuous plays to start the game as evidence of a brewing upset. Uh oh, Florida’s starting the first drive of the game at their own 17. What a tackle on special teams. Cue the JP music and cymbal clash, then: “We’ve got an upset in the making.” It was uncanny.

10. ClayNation’s dad is the most affable fellow on the planet. If a nuclear attack happened, he’d be whistling through the nuclear winter while picking up charred branches. Yet he hated listening to Dave Rowe so much he chose to watch all JP telecasts in silence. Even in the middle of summer, if you mention Dave Rowe’s name, his face turns into an absolute scowl.

11. The camera angles. Seriously, last year with instant replay review, it was a complete joke. There would be a question about whether the ball had broken the plane of the goal line and JP’s three cameras would have the following footage: Sideline reporter Dave Baker making faces at UGA in his doghouse, the Berlin Wall coming down and the end zone as viewed from the opposite end zone. It was almost like JP was willfully trying not to show the game. I would have given anything to see the instant replay official trying to make a determination off these feeds. He would have been better served getting the feed from the undergrad’s camera phones in the student section.

12. The split telecasts. When the JP B-team would get to call a game, it was like a national holiday for awkwardness. This was the rough equivalent of handing a microphone to a random guy gambling in Tunica, Miss., give him a suit and tie, watch a television monitor that was cutting-edge when Nixon was impeached and talk about football. It was horrible … and spectacular.

13. But to sum it all up, I vividly recall my then-girlfriend and now wife (Michigan born and raised) sitting down on my couch during law school while Vandy was playing Ole Miss on JP television. She scrunched up her face, looked over at me and then sort of looked at the television screen quizzically before she said, “What is this?” I think she summed up JP better in three words than I have in a couple thousand. What is this indeed? Join me in bidding JP goodbye

Article written by Matt Jones