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Outside » Outside Features

College Hoops All Night: Watching basketball in the middle of the night because ESPN told me to

ESPN's Tip Off Marathon was an overboard treat for college basketball addicts.

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It's almost two in the morning on Tuesday and what do you think I'm doing? Sleeping? Nope. First of all, how would I be writing this if I were sleeping? Jeez, get your head in the game, pal. No, I'm watching college basketball on live television between two teams about which I could care less. Did you know they have a Central Michigan University now?

Why would I, or anyone, be watching live college basketball at such an hour? Um, probably because ESPN told me to. Duh. For the last three years, ESPN has picked a Tuesday in mid-November for the "Tip Off Marathon," which, incidentally, is not an endurance circumcision competition, but rather a string of 12 consecutive games spanning 24 hours on ESPN and an effing s-load of other games on other ESPN channels. All the big dogs appear during late afternoon and primetime match-ups, including Duke, Michigan State, Gonzaga and Kansas State, but if you're, for example, Monmouth University, you get included in the mix, but are forced to play at six o'clock... in the morning... probably when it's still dark out... and in front of zero fans.

Is anyone watching a game at six in the morning (or 3 a.m. out here on the West Coast)? Hell, no. But that's not the point. Something like 12 straight hours of hoops would likely satiate the early season basketball jones for most and constitute a marathon, but ESPN was all like, "Hey, we're freaking ESPN. We're gonna do this for an entire rotation of the planet Earth and nobody is gonna say boo about it."

ESPN can do pretty much whatever they want in the sporting world, even if that means manipulating sports scheduling. After all, they're the ones who convinced Boise State to play half of their games on Tuesdays and Fridays. And this week, ESPN had the sort of pull to convince 18,000 Memphis residents to purchase tickets to a game that didn't tip off until after 11 p.m. local time. On a school night. But ESPN should really flex this marathon-planning muscle more often and across different areas of the sporting world. Here are a few ideas:

NFL Football Marathon: Keep the same format from the college basketball marathon and force Jerry Jones to stay up six hours past his bedtime to see his Cowboys play in the 2 a.m. slot in his empty shopping mall of a stadium.

Competitive Eating Marathon: While ESPN has shied away from its competitive eating coverage in the last couple of would years, such a marathon would be the ultimate indulgence. What's more American than sitting on your couch for the majority of a day as you watch weirdos test the strength of their stomach lining? Nothing.

Marathon Marathon Coverage: How about a marathon of marathon running? Seems almost too easy and come on, ESPN, you've never thought of this? You should probably hire me right now. Job title: Director of Marathons.

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