It was a busy day for American sports fans. A full early slate of college football games that were exciting to watch happened while a Yankee slugger tried to reach a record number of home runs.
With Aaron Judge on the cusp of tying Roger Maris’s American League single-season home run record of 61, ESPN made the decision to two-box the Yankees-Red Sox broadcast on YES Network with two games happening on ABC and ESPN.
Fans watching No. 5 Clemson @ No. 21 Wake Forest on ABC and Missouri @ Auburn on ESPN suddenly had the play-by-play call of the college football games muted, while the audio and pictures from Michael Kay and the YES Network cut in while Judge was up to bat.
It was only shown three times – when Judge was at the plate in the first, third, and fifth innings. Judge’s at-bat in the seventh inning was not shown on ABC – as Clemson and Wake Forest were in the middle of overtime. ABC showed the result of his at-bat – a strikeout – after a break in the college football action took place.
However, during Judge’s third inning and fifth inning at-bats, the Wake Forest-Clemson game each saw touchdowns scored. First, early in the third quarter, Wake Forest took the lead with a Sam Hartman pass to Donavon Greene to go up 21-20.
Pictured is one of the three times ESPN and ABC cut to Aaron Judge batting at Yankee Stadium
Then, later in the same quarter, when the cameras cut to Yankee Stadium, Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei passed for a touchdown and then converted a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 28-28.
Judge failed to hit a home run to tie the record on Saturday, leaving his race for a 61st and 62nd for another day.
In a country as college football obsessed as the United States, the programming decision was an affront to all those watching at home.
Social media was ablaze with anger over ESPN’s decision making. Some cited that the network did the same thing in the summer of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s home run race. However, rage was the main emotion on Twitter.
‘ESPN forcing people to watch baseball is despicable,’ wrote one twitter user.
While the broadcast cut away to Judge, Clemson scored a 2-point conversion to tie the game
Judge finished the day 0-3 with two strikeouts, but the Yankees held on to win the game
‘There’s a hundred ways to watch games nowadays, let the baseball people go watch baseball,’ said another.
One user sarcastically wrote, ‘Clemson going for 2 to tie the game…and we’re looking live at Aaron Judge dig into the batter’s box.’
Others criticized the choice to cut into a game as important as a battle between two ranked teams. An outraged tweeter said: ‘Why am I missing critical plays in this Clemson game so ESPN can cut into a Yankees game? I could understand if like, USF was playing, but presumably college football fans want to watch the college football game?’
College football fans expressed outrage as ESPN cut away to the Yankees-Red Sox game
Other users on Twitter used this moment to mock others and to point out that this has happened before.
‘As a baseball fan, I think it’s cool to cut away for a chance to see history. As someone who likes seeing everyone get mad, I think they should keep the box up for the whole game. Including commercials.,’ wrote one user.
Another pointed out historical context, saying, ‘I think this is fine TBH. It ruled during the McGwire/Sosa season.’
But overall, the choice was too much for some to bear. One user begged with ESPN to stop cutting away from the games.
‘@espn if I wanted to watch baseball, I would have turned on baseball. Stop randomly changing the game I’m watching to see some guy get out while skipping important drives that I’m interested in. There are enough commercials for you to cut to show highlights from other sports.,’ a distraught user wrote.