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ESPN's new motto: Why cover sports when we can just bore you senseless instead?

For once, an ESPN sportscaster offered an astute observation. "The hype machine is churning with this one," Mike Hall said Wednesday night on ESPNU (the network's college-sports channel) during a discussion of Saturday's football game between Ohio State and Michigan. I'm supposing the machine Hall was referring to was his own network, which has turned into the Ronco of sports broadcasting -- essentially just an endless -- and mindless -- infomercial for corporate partner ABC's Saturday telecast of the game. At 10 p.m. Wednesday, ESPNU launched a mind-boggling 21 consecutive hours of promotional broadcasting for the game, including taped replays of previous Ohio State-Michigan match ups, puffy documentaries on past coaches of the two teams, and general white noise. Even during what was supposed to be a break -- the Air Force-Stanford basketball game -- ESPNU devoted almost eight minutes of the 103-minute telecast to Ohio State-Michigan promos. And that's not counting the idiotic countdown clock (63 hours, 4 minutes and 12 seconds to game time!) and other material that streamed along the bottom of the screen. I know Ohio State and Michigan are undefeated and ranked Nos. 1 and 2, and it's a big game. But after a couple of hours last night, I found myself rooting for winged demons to swoop out of the sky just before kickoff and carry both teams off to the ninth circle of Hell, or Division I-AA, whichever is deeper.

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