Today's launch of the Pac-12 Networks will have most thinking about the future, conjuring images of HD TVs, laptops and tablets. And indeed, with the hub and regional networks adding partners daily and unprecedented online reach available, the conference is taking a long stride forward. However for me, the launch brings to mind a late 1980s model Plymouth minivan.
It's 1992. Arizona is playing the Miami Hurricanes, the No. 1 ranked team in college football and defending national champion in the Orange Bowl. This was the Miami Billy Corben depicted in his documentary The U., an unbeatable juggernaut with three titles in less than a decade and boasting the nation's longest home win streak.
Steve McLaughlin, one of the great college kickers all-time, missed an impossibly long field goal attempt that would have capped the most incredible win in UA history. The Wildcats fell to the Hurricanes 8-7, that day garnering national attention for the defense that would come to be called Desert Swarm. Though just eight years old, I still remember it vividly.
Mostly because I heard McLaughlin's failed field goal called on the radio, sitting in my dad's late 1980s model Plymouth.
I do not recall the circumstances that had the Kensings piled into the minivan, hearing the call of perhaps the single most famous near-miss in program history, but I do remember that following the Wildcats was a challenging proposition. It was either the ABC broadcast with Keith Jackson, the Raycom Game of the Week ,or bust. That left many games relegated to local radio, which in Prescott, Ariz., was a bluegrass station.
Seeing the top tier basketball team regularly was easier -- all home and conference games were available on TV -- but they appeared on a syndicated channel in broadcast quality that left one wondered if games were filmed on a potato.
The HD cameras that will capture Wildcat football and basketball, as well as the reigning national champion baseball team are far cries from those days of games preempting reruns of "The Honeymooners." Technology is truly a wonder, and the Pac-12 is riding it.
As the networks extend their reach, memories of listening to games in Plymouth minivans will feel especially antiquated. Even more recent years with games more readily available oftentimes meant finding a Web stream (not that AZDesertSwarm.com condoned such actions) in order to see every game.
And Pac-12 Networks' reach will extend. To wit, the Big Ten Network was on just two major cable providers upon its launch five years ago. It's now available in 40 million homes. Coverage giants Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Cox are already signed on with the Pac-12 Networks, and negotiations with DirecTV are ongoing. The networks' impact will buoy athletic departments as availability grows, and the win for fans will be undeniable.
I have listened to the past, and have seen the future. The future is pretty awesome.