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The ACC Network: So Far So Good

Well the first night was Duke basketball. What’s not to like?

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CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 18: ACC Commissioner John Swofford announces the new trademark for the partnership between the ACC Network and ESPN at the the ACC Football Kickoff on July 18, 2018, at The Westin Charlotte in Charlotte, NC.
Photo by Jay Anderson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The ACC Network debuted Thursday night and while it’s still early, we have to say we enjoyed it.

That’s easy enough: the debut package was fun and well done and after that, from 9-11, was Duke basketball.

Do that every night and we’re so in.

Seriously though the documentary on Duke’s class of ‘86 was really well done. About our only quibble was that Duke’s former play-by-play man Bob Harris has a vast trove of Duke stories they could have tapped into. But he wasn’t a player or coach so we understand. Still, he was around more than Keith Drum was.

And someone - we think it was Jay Bilas - said the only guy at Duke who had been to the NCAA tournament was the trainer. That would be the great Max Crowder and he deserved a bit more than that.

Other than that, there was a lot of good stuff, great stories and insights into the foundational class of modern Duke basketball.

Nicely, they also included Bill Jackman, who transferred home to Nebraska after having some family issues.

After the Duke segment came The Huddle, a name that could probably be improved. That could be more interesting when there is more to discuss. We could see it being Must See viewing on game nights, not least of all when there’s a controversy. Maybe they can hire a Zapruder.

In the morning we will see the debut of the dully named Packer and Durham show. The two are ACC legacies Mark Packer and Wes Durham, sons of Billy and Woody respectively.

Durham is a solid chip off the old block. We have never been UNC fans but only a fool would deny Woody Durham’s greatness. He was a superb broadcaster. That he lost his ability to speak, to paint pictures with his words, was beyond cruel.

We’ve only caught bits of the younger Packer over the years and we hope he’s not a chip off the old blockhead. He’s generally respected and almost certainly more likable than his father who was good at his job but not what you might call a beloved figure. He was an equal opportunity irritator and not much lamented when he left the scene.

We hope that they can, between the two of them, surpass the Paul Finebaum show.

Since he’s an SEC hack, Finebaum is required to drone on about football. He’d do it even if Alabama baseball played the Martians on Alpha Centauri for the Intergalactic World Series.

He’s a bit of a cold fish really who likes to sneer at the commoners and he’s convinced that only one conference matters. Well that could be true if football is all you’re interested in. Even then though, a sense of humor or a willingness to have a little fun helps. We hope that Mark Packer learned that lesson from his father’s fun free broadcast career.

In fact, if we are limited to one wish for the new ACC Network, it’d be that: have fun.

The ACC over the years has had its share of stuffed shirts. ESPN at times has had guys like Chris Berman, Stuart Scott, Dick Vitale and Jim Valvano. All of those guys could make you laugh or at least grin.

That was true of Billy Packer’s old partner Al McGuire too. He could blurt out weird stuff like “shorting stocks is un-American” in the middle of a basketball game.

For all his weird non-sequiturs and his willingness to partially undress on TV, Bill Walton brings a sense of fun and unpredictability to his workplace. His mind works in interesting ways.

If the ACC Network wants to be truly great, they’d look for people who love the conference and who have outsized personalities.

If you put Bill Walton, Jay Bilas, Jim Valvano and Al McGuire around a table with a steady supply of their favorite naughty substance, whatever that might happen to be (no judgement!), you’d get some of the best, funniest takes on, well, anything.

We’d even consider inviting comedians in to do a sort of Weekend Update about the week’s events and we’d certainly consider doing what Duke basketball has done and giving microphones and cameras to the players.

The network is nice and the events should be fun. What it needs now is a breakout star, someone who brings a sense of joy and life to what has, traditionally, been a bit of a stuffy ACC.

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