The NFL is making much of the "unprecedented" telecast of Saturday's Patriots-at-Giants game — so designated because it will be carried on not one, not two, but three different channels.

(The NFL Network, CBS and NBC.)

Wow! A football game carried live on three different channels! That hasn't happened since ... Nov. 24!

Yes, just over a month ago, a little game of some local interest here in Utah was on three different channels at the same time. The BYU-Utah matchup was carried on The mtn., CSTV and Versus.

And that's pretty much where the comparison ends. Saturday's Patriots-Giants game will be on two channels (CBS and NBC) in virtually all the 114 million American homes that have a TV. And it will be seen on a third channel in about 50 million homes that get the NFL Network.

The Utah-BYU game was available in about 70 million homes that get Versus; CSTV is available in 20-something million, and The mtn. in a paltry 1.2 million. And those numbers aren't cumulative — millions of homes that get CSTV also get Versus; dozens of homes that get The mtn. also get Versus, CSTV or both.

(Just kidding about that dozens things. It's really hundreds of thousands.)

What the folks at Comcast and CSTV want us to draw from this NFL Network situation is that even an entity as powerful as the National Football League has had difficulty muscling its way onto cable systems. The NFL Network is only available in about 40 percent of the nation's TV-equipped homes, and the league continues to feud with major cable companies like Comcast and Time-Warner.

The fact is that the only reason the Patriots-Giants game is airing on CBS and NBC is that the NFL bowed to political pressure. Just days ago, the league declared there was absolutely no chance it would make the game — in which the Pats are gunning for the league's first undefeated regular season since 1972 — available to anyone who doesn't get the NFL Network.

It was a great club for the NFL to use to beat the cable companies over the head.

But various politicians started to make noise about reviewing the NFL's antitrust exemption if the league didn't do something. And, suddenly, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was issuing a statement that the league has "taken this extraordinary step because it is in the best interest of our fans."

Baloney. It was in the best interest of the league. It just happened to be good for the fans, too.

The fact remains, however, that almost everyone in America can get the NFL Network — because it's available on both Dish Network and DirecTV. BYU and Utah fans would love to have that option for The mtn.

And that's what we should draw from this comparison. Whereas 50 million homes get the NFL Network and the other 64 million could if they wanted to, only 1.2 million homes get The mtn. and in excess of 100 million can't no matter how much they want it.

I used to be optimistic that things would get better. Now, I'd be shocked if there's much movement before next football season.

I don't know what the answer is. Maybe the Mountain West Conference could disband and re-form under a new name with a new TV deal ....

EVEN BEING ON ESPN isn't always the answer, as Utah fans found out during the Poinsettia Bowl. A whole lot of Ute fans missed the first 11 minutes of the game because ESPN's coverage of the Duke-Pitt basketball game — which went into overtime — lasted so long.

Yes, Utah-Navy was on ESPN Classic. But not everyone who has ESPN has ESPN Classic.

I'm sympathetic to ESPN on this one. In general, it's better to stick with the end of a game (if the outcome is in doubt) than cut to the beginning of the next game.

And, fortunately for ESPN (and football fans), not much happened in the first 11 minutes of the Poinsettia Bowl.

But it could have been handled better. How about a split screen? Or even a small picture-in-picture with the football game in the corner?

That would be better than missing almost a quarter of the game.