While I certainly hope tonight’s 4 games are nearly as exciting as last night’s quartet, I also don’t believe that we as a human race really deserve that much entertainment. And if you think that sort of hyperbole is over the top, check out Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News’ low opinion of CBS’s mouthpieces.
We all can agree that CBS is paying big-time to televise March Madness. The money is so huge, one suspects the network’s priority would be maximizing ratings and not catering to the NCAA. Maybe this has something to do with the long-term nature of the relationship. It also may be about CBS Sports executives being preoccupied with the technical challenge rather than the journalistic one. The NCAA absolutely loves this. That fact was well-documented – on the record – in 2006 on CBS. Craig Littlepage, the Virginia AD who was serving as chairman of the Division I men’s basketball committee, went on CBS and openly discussed the “partnership,” and how CBS should have an “understanding” of what that means, which included going light on “opinions.”
Did his words resonate with CBS’ analysts and play-by-play voices? Who knows? Still, judging by what has gone on in the opening rounds of this year’s tournament, it is safe to say the announcers know the importance of keeping the NCAA happy.
There was hardly any criticism of the officiating and, in one of the most controversial moments of the tournament, CBS totally bailed. With nine seconds left in regulation and Xavier up 61-59 over Ohio State, the officials did not call an intentional foul, instead of a personal foul, on OSU’s Greg Oden – who had shoved Justin Cage hard, sending him flying over the baseline. If they had hit Oden with an intentional foul, Xavier would have had two free throws and the ball. Neither analyst Dan Bonner nor play-by-play man Gus Johnson touched this. And when CBS went back to the studio, analysts Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis basically dismissed the noncall. Even after all the day’s games were over, and there was ample time, the situation was never even discussed during the final studio show. The see-no-evil approach had to please the NCAA.
And, according to USA Today, the NCAA pulled strings with CBS Sports suits, getting them to pull a Hooters ad featuring Dick Vitale during last weekend’s telecasts. While the sight of Vitale in a Hooters spot won’t do anything for your appetite, it again shows how “cooperative” CBS is with the NCAA. While no one will ever admit the depths of this relationship, you don’t have to be Oliver Stone to believe CBS listens to the NCAA far too often. It’s perplexing. You would think CBS might want to dig into a controversy to generate heat, which can’t hurt ratings. Or the integrity of all those NCAA, er, CBS voices.