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When it comes to watching football and basketball, Fox Sports is superior to ESPN in nearly every single way. But it's a big, big "nearly." The single exception is what happens when games run past their scheduled times. When that happens, Fox Sports is egregiously disdainful of its viewers, leisurely joining the next game in progress after cramming in huge numbers of ads and silly promos.

Stanford_arizona_st_basketb Saturday's college basketball schedule on Fox Sports offered some particularly painful examples. The afternoon began with a terrific women's game between two top 20 teams,Texas A&M and Oklahoma. It ended in a nailbiting 54-52 upset win for Texas A&M, a game that went down to the final shot and in which both coaches called several timeouts in the final two minutes of play. Result: It went past the tipoff time for the next scheduled game, a matchup between Arizona State and Stanford, a pair of top 10 women's teams.

Nothing Fox Sports could do about that -- except make it worse. First the network stayed with the Texas A&M-Oklahoma game even after it ended, showing pointless pictures of the cheerleaders while the announcers blathered the usual postgame cliches about who wanted it more. When that finally ended, Fox Sports crammed in four commercials before joining the ASU-Stanford game, 13 minutes into the telecast.

Amazingly, ASU-Stanford was even more excruciatingly tight, going into overtime before Stanford took over for a 73-65 victory. Once again the action spilled past the scheduled time slot, so viewers tuning in for the next game -- the Oregon State and Washington men -- had to wait...and wait...and wait.... while Fox Sports ran an astonishing 11 commercials. (In a truly maddening example of how cancerous the pseudoscience of marketing has become, one of the ads was for the Oregon State-Washington game itself -- Fox Sports apparently thought viewers would prefer watching a promo to the actual game.) It was 16 minutes into the telecast before the network decided it had tortured its own viewers long enough and joined the game.

No television network really gives much of a rat's derriere about viewers' opinions, and cable nets are even more insulated than the broadcasters -- their constituency is the cable companies, not the viewers. (And you know exactly how much your cable company cares what you think.) So Fox Sports' cavalier attitude is unlikely to change unless the college conferences whose games are being jacked around say something. If I were the Pac-10 commissioner, I'd be jumping up and down about what happened Saturday.

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