My Super Sweet Sixteen (Not Featuring Annoying Little Twats*), Part II
If this was 1982, the Columbia Broadcasting System’s coverage of the NCAA Tournament might be considered state of the art, but now, in an era in which I can watch Paula Dean and her many chins cook artery clogging yet surely delicious fried foods on numerous high-definition channels (not advised), it is unacceptably bad.
Let me run down all of CBS’s crimes against sports viewers, starting first with the misdemeanors:
Studio show patter – Amongst the unintelligentsia of sports studio shows, CBS’s troika of the fatter, kinder Gumbel, solid Greg Anthony, and smarmy Seth Davis is actually somewhat tolerable. But it’s still unnecessary. With so many things going on at once, us fans want to actually watch games, or at least highlights, not three guys analyze the most obvious shit we just spent the last hour watching ourselves. At least CBS’s show isn’t a straight drunken giggle-fest like all the detestable NFL shows. Seth Davis’s prognostications this year have been an abomination though. Some “expert.” Who will be the first network, what will be the first major sporting event, to eliminate the studio? I think it could work. Surprisingly, I’ve yet to have a complaint with any of this year’s announcers, all who seem to be doing steady, quality work.
Bland home courts — If it’s not bad enough that this year’s first round sites were either in cities that couldn’t give a shit about college hoops (see: Miami) or completely biased home team venues (see: Greensboro and Philadelphia), all of this year’s courts are exactly the same, bare bones parquet floors with nothing more than the off-centered (why?**) NCAA logo decal affixed at center court. I’d like to see the typical, all-year floor markings for the school, the arena, whatever. It’s what makes each place unique. The NCAA doesn’t like uniqueness though, they just like everyone bowing down to their “greatness.”
Commercials – This isn’t exactly CBS’s crime, they’re just selling the spots, but seriously, businesses, companies, etc., if you’re going to buy hundreds of hours of commercial air time for the three weeks of the tournament, at least produce a variety of different spots. Or at least interesting ones. Novel concept, huh? Take what is clearly the most ubiquitous commercial of this year, the Buffalo Wild Wings spot where loser beer-bellies hate their at-home lives so much–and I guess enjoy chain restaurants to such an astounding degree–that they beg the world’s most connected and powerful bartender to assure the current game they watch on the big screen goes into overtime so they may eke out just a little more besotted fun that evening. I have nothing against BWW, and in fact the one time I found myself in a location I actually really enjoyed the food and ludicrously cheap steins of macro-beer, but I have been so deluged with this commercial that I now have a guttural, Pavlovian hatred for the joint that were I to find myself in Omaha or Cheyenne with a hankering for some mango habanero boneless chicken wings and frosty mug of Coors Lite, I would probably just skip the joint. It seems that companies think “raising brand awareness” even while annoying potential customers and wasting millions on a campaign is a good thing. Think again.
And onto the felonies…
Channel coverage — A few months ago, my Time Warner cable actually exceeded 1000 channels. As recent as the turn of the century I remember having only double-digits. I now have channels numbering into the 1900s. 1900s! Yet the NCAA Tournament–perhaps the greatest multi-game sporting event in America–is only available on one channel at one time. How fucking silly is it that fans have to spend all week trying to figure out what game their market is going to get? Whether or not they’ll have to sprint to a sports bar at noon to watch their team compete. (I pity my Syracuse friends now living in California who had to find a bar open at 9 AM on Friday in order to watch our opening round trouncing of Stephen F. Austin.) How ludicrous is it that I can watch every single NIT game from the comfort of my home yet can’t do the same for the more important tournament? ESPN fucking sucks in a multitude of ways, but at least the “Worldwide Leader” utilizes all of their channels–the Deuce, U, Classic, Espanol–to broadcast important and overlapping stuff.
Come on CBS, get with the times and use your own assets–the CW, CBS College Sports, even fucking Showtime–so that we can see all the games at once.
DirecTV package — Ah, but you say, “Aaron, you can see all the games at once, just don’t be a cheapskate and purchase the DirecTV package.” Yes, I may be a cheapskate but I have friends that are not and do purchase the package (and then I invite myself over to their house to watch the games, drink their beers, and eat their food.) Now this is an idea I’m perfect satisfied with and at $70 for the entire tournament that’s a perfect reasonable rate to assure you can watch every game. Except…you don’t get to watch every fucking game! Er, at least, you don’t get to watch every fucking minute of every fucking game. And that’s because you don’t just get committed feeds of each game, something that would make sense, but rather the straight regional coverage of each which are still afflicted by the greatest demon of them all…
Cutaways — The anonymous, nameless, and faceless God-like entity–picture Ed Harris in “The Truman Show”–who decides when games should be cut from to go to other games deserves to be strung up by his hairless balls. Last Friday late night I coincidentally found myself at a Union Square sports bar which was serving as the shared NCAA “headquarters” for both Ohio St. and Florida St. fans. Amazingly, both teams were playing at the same time and, even more amazingly, both were in tight affairs, the Buckeyes heading into double OT with spunky Sienna, the ‘Noles going into OT with frisky Wisconsin. And despite the dozens of televisions occupying all four walls in the bar, fans never knew which screen to glare at to follow their team’s game.
If I actually cared about these teams I would be infuriated–as all these fans indeed were–but instead it was simply comical to watch both schools’ alumni meatheads spinning around and swiveling and craning their necks every few seconds like cats watching a racquetball match and “It’s now on that screen!” as dopey CBS was constantly and frequently cutting back in forth between each game depending on region and market and the current timeout and commercial situation. Once, even shockingly cutting away as a potential Ohio St. game-winning shot was IN THE AIR. Unacceptable. I thought there was going to be a riot in the bar, and this was before both games ended in the higher seeded, bar-rooting teams losing. (I privately pumped my fist and give a subtle wink to the sole dude in a Sienna t-shirt; I had picked both the Saints and Badgers in my now-in-1st bracket pool.)
Look CBS, just commit to the feed of single games and eliminate the Goddamn cutaways. This is 2009, we don’t need cutaways, we don’t need “live look ins,” we don’t need split screens and quad screens, we just need singular feeds of each ongoing game, each on a different channel–charge us if you want, that’s fine–and the relaxed luxury of turning that channel on and enjoying the game we want to watch from tip until the final horn.
Maybe one day you’ll get it right. Morons. At least your theme song is still awesome and gives me chills every fucking time a day of games opens.
What are your NCAA tournament, CBS, or sports coverage pet peeves?
Now my breakdown for the Friday/Sunday games:
Much like Pitt, Louisville was another #1 seed that looked quite lackluster in rounds one and two. I’m less concerned if I’m a Cards fan, though, because I guarantee Rick Pitino has gotten his boys back in line this week. It also helps that they have the easiest remaining route to the Final Four of any #1. Their tilt with faux-Cinderella (Pretenderella?) Arizona should offer a minor challenge early as they actually have the athletes and NBA bodies to compete with Louisville, but Louisville has the superior coaching and basketball players. Louisville’s offense isn’t great but Arizona has the worst defense left in the tournament and thus the #1 seed’s superior depth and pressure defense will make this one a second half laugher.
Meanwhile, in a matchup from earlier this year won easily by the Spartans, Michigan State will yet again take on Kansas. The defenses will be stout–and the offenses inept–in this game and you could see the winning team garnering only 55 total points (which would actually make for a blow-out in the Big 10). Goofy Cole Aldrich will be the best player on the floor and may have 30 of those. I can’t believe I’m saying this for as recent as the start of the New Year I thought they were fo’ sho’ NIT bound, but Kansas will indeed ascend to the Elite 8 (despite a huge coaching disparity between Izzo and Self). An amazing achievement coming off a title and the loss of countless NBA-bound starters. Nevertheless, the fun ends in the next round as Louisville will absolutely humiliate them.
UNC/Gonzaga is every square’s upset special of the weekend and you’ve no doubt been hearing a lot of, “You know, I think the Zags can actually give the Tarheels a run.” Well, I’m a huge hater of the Spokane, Washington program–not cause of anything they do, but rather because the national media continues to act year after year like they are one of the big dogs on the college hoops landscape. Little secret: they ain’t. It was over a decade ago that they had that singular, “magical” run to the Elite 8 and ever since then it’s been a ton of overseeded, crying-on-the-court flameouts–but I mildly concur. Gonzaga’s defense is good but somewhat overrated, while UNC’s offense is great but somewhat overrated, especially with Ty Lawson still banged up. UNC would have lost to any truly decent team last Saturday, but they will be more focused this week and should prevail by 10 or so.
I refuse to make a prediction on my alma mater versus the Sooners, but I will offer some analysis. I’ve been unable to sleep all week for reasons two-fold: 1) due to a gluttonous opening rounds weekend I’ve decided to detox on booze til this game on Friday (falling asleep sober is tough! Luckily there’s Jimmy Fallon!) and 2) I can’t get out of my mind the thought of the now stellar Cuse 2-3 zone forcing OU into bad shot after bad shot which leads to miss after miss…which leads to Blake Griffin rebound after Blake Griffin rebound for gorilla dunk after gorilla dunk. However, were I an OU fan I’d be also up all night this week wondering how the hell the mediocre Oklahoma D can possibly stop the guard triumvirate of Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Andy Rautins. This will be the highest scoring game of the Sweet Sixteen–much different than the 2003 Elite 8 waxing won 63-47 by the good guys–and if I wasn’t an atheist I’d be praying the Hall of Fame legend James Arthur Boeheim will prevail for career win #800.
The potential regional finals will almost certainly feature a one-on-one matchup I’ve been begging to see all year: either Griffin versus Tyler Hansborough or Flynn versus Lawson. Both UNC guys are biasedly more ballyhooed, but Griffin will absolutely massacre Psycho T and make him wish he was already riding the NBA pine, while Flynn should finally prove that he is the best point in the game. Teamwise, I don’t think OU has the supporting cast to offensively hang with North Carolina, while UNC/SU could be a high-flying, high-scoring, All-Star game defense shootout for the ages.
(Have I mentioned that if Syracuse wins the title this year I have to get on my own body all the same tattoos Devendorf already has on his? I’d do it with pleasure though having the name of another man’s child on the back of my neck could be a little odd.)
There you have it, UCONN, NOVA, LOUISVILLE, and ????, my Big East-biased Final Four. I’ll be back next week to gloat about my awesome picks, or to make excuses for my prognostication failures in the same way smarmy Seth Davis do. And to offer my Championship thoughts.
North Coast Old Stock Ale
11.7% ABV bottled
Stumbling upon this in the store, I’d mistakenly thought I’d made a splendid score. I was mistakenly recalling their highly touted Old Stock Cellar Reserve, I presume the normal Old Stock bourbon barreled. Nevertheless, this “normal” beer was still quite good. A great strong ale smell and taste. Caramel malts and a little hops, a thickness and richness like a weak cognac. Flavor not quite as complex as I’d like but still quite good as most North Coast product is.
*Save Greg Paulus.
**Hat tip: KOIII