Jon Reed Goes Off On... March 2006
Monday, March, 20 2006
CBS's Maddening March Madness Coverage
Colin Cowherd of "The Herd" (ESPN Radio) says that March Madness is the best time of year in sports, with the upstarts and underdogs and the small schools having their day. He's right, but there's a problem: the product is terrific, but CBS's head-scratching delivery of this product leaves a lot to be desired. On Sunday, during a good-but-not-great UConn-over-Kentucky game, Jim Nantz proclaimed this the "wackiest March Madness ever!" (despite the fact that all number one seeds are still intact). Nantz may be right, but the viewers in my region had no way of knowing. Today, there were several big upsets. George Mason over North Carolina was a tight game contested to the final free throw. But Greg Gumbel must have been too busy eating doughnuts and practicing saying "Powered by Pontiac" to show us much of this game. Despite the fact that the George Mason game wrapped up during an uneventful period in the UConn/Kentucky game, we were stuck with the big schools and Nantz and Packer. (During the broadcast, Billy Packer didn't have the balls to admit that the big wins by Wichita State and George Mason made him look pretty stupid for his big-school-suck-up that he rolled out on the CBS selection show). So George Mason wins, and we did see the clinching free throw but not the exuberant celebration with the little school going crazy and Roy Williams putting his taste-of-lemon smile on as he shook hands at mid-court. Later, Bradley beat Pitt in another tightly contested upset, but we didn't get much of a look into this one either, because we evidently needed to see the entirety of a good-but-never-really-in-doubt Villanova/Arizona game. The story of the tournament are the mid-majors that have closed the gap between the 2s and the 15s, but I have to learn about these games by reading about them online because CBS won't show them to me. I got to see big schools playing according to seed. Idea: show the last couple minutes of the most newsworthy and exciting games, and stay with them until the coaches shake hands so we can be a part of that moment. Piling on, CBS also continues its all-about-the-benjamins practice of running commercials on every timeout. When they did swap between the end of two close games on Saturday, I counted twelve commercial breaks in the span of four minutes of game time. Commercials are part of the game, but sensible decisions on game cutaways over pure, unadulterated greed would go a long way. NBC (and now ABC) figured out how to strike that balance during NBA games, why can't CBS? Stay with the close games sometimes, and let the great commentators like Len Elmore set up the game while the tension mounts. Saturday night I got so sick of watching more commercials than game I decided to switch between CBS and "Teen Wolf Too." Every time I switched back, a commercial was on. Oh well, at least I got to watch Jason Bateman grapple with being a college student and a werewolf again. And don't get me started on "The Road to the Final Four/Powered by Pontiac." God that is so brand-name-whoring stupid. CBS has figured out how to make gobs of cash in March, but don't you dare call it March Madness until you start showing me some of the "wackiness" Jim Nantz is watching on his handheld.