Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Under Further Review: The Good and Bad of the NCAA Tournament Opening Weekend

The first four days of the NCAA tournament are basically the sports equivalent to four straight days of Christmas. And I mean Thursday through Sunday; the "first four" doesn't count. Each day featured 12 or so straight hours of nonstop madness, and luckily thanks to Ohio State's first round flop, we could all enjoy the rest of the day without worrying about our bracket being perfect. Those 48 hours were put on the national television stage by CBS and Turner (TNT, TBS, and TruTV), and, as expected, there were One Shining Moments and there were Chris Webber Timeouts.

We know that the tournament is immensely popular and people watch as much as they can. Well, some watch at work, which their boss probably hates but we endorse. Others may watch in class -- thanks Drexel for scheduling my final exams before the games had begun. It was pretty difficult to pry myself from the couch with the nonstop action, and I wasn't the only one. CBS Sports announced on Monday that this year was the most watched first weekend of hoops in 21 years, averaging over 10 million viewers on Saturday. So, longer than many of us have even been alive.

This year's Madness began early with Ohio State getting knocked off by the Fighting Archie Millers of Dayton. The excitement that the Flyers were able to bring from the onset set the tone for the rest of the first -- OK, second -- round, and people took notice. We saw Mercer dance their way to an improbably upset over Duke, Tennessee work their way from play-in game to Sweet 16, 12-seeds North Dakota State and Harvard "upset" their opponents in the most predictable upsets in recent memory, and Stephen F. Austin kept their streak alive for a little bit longer. No wonder America couldn't take their eyes away.

But there were also some moments that CBS and Turner would like to forget.

Like when young, up-and-coming play-by-play man Andrew Catalon used a racial slur in reference to a Polish player on Gonzaga. Catalon issued an apology on-air shortly after the incident and has been open with the media in talking about the situation. He has spoke with Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated and apologized further.

Or when CBS continued to show sad shots of sad fans when their team was losing. Over and over and over. What was that all about? I know Kansas is losing and people are sad, do we need repeated camera cuts to a crying 10 year old in Kansas garb? I'm not so sure. Showing crowd shots is commonplace in live sports broadcasts, but networks run the risk of the crowd shots overtaking the action of the game. The crying fans didn't reach Brent Musburger-Katherine Webb levels, but that's a tough bar to jump over.

There was also a botched dismount on an interview between Dayton head coach Archie Miller and the CBS studio crew where Greg Gumbel called Miller by the name of Sean (his brother and Arizona head coach) by accident before the audio cut out. It was an awkward moment, and you kind of feel for a guy like Miller and a school like Dayton who are just trying to make names for themselves on their run. Heading to the Sweet 16, though, there will certainly be no shortage of interviews media exposure.

Overall, it seemed that the good outweighed the bad, and it was a highly successful first weekend for CBS and Turner. Maybe we showed too many sad faces, but you know where TruTV is now! It's only three short NCAA tournament-free days before the action begins again, so get ready with Awful Announcing's announcer guide with start times. Here's to more Madness.


Kevin Rossi is a junior Drexel Sport Management major with minors in Communications and Business Administration. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to President. Currently, Kevin is also the Drexel editor for Kevin recently finished his second co-op with Temple University in their Athletic Communications office. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Connect with Kevin Rossi on LinkedIn.

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