Same old selection show, except for Barkley
by Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY Sports
CBS’ annual infomercial for its NCAA men’s basketball tournament — its NCAA selection show Sunday — was the same old, same old.
Meaning, it was bizarre by the standards of TV sports. It virtually ignored what is usually the star attraction in the rest of TV sports: the athletes themselves.
A very few players were mentioned in passing although, before the selection show, coaches were interviewed. That the CBS/Turner NCAA coverage is about try to sell 67 games in national TV windows with pretty much no nationally-known players on display isn’t totally the fault of those networks. But they aren’t doing much to help themselves.
Imagine NFL pregame show that didn’t talk about players. Or seeing Olympic TV coverage without all those athlete up-close-and-personals?
It isn’t new that CBS/Turner selection coverage yaks on and on about brackets, seeding, game sites and on that on the games we’ll see plenty of sideline shots to show the big names — the coaches. But it’s still striking to see TV event coverage in which the players are seen as secondary. Granted there’s lots of player turnover, especially with the best players turning pro, but NCAA TV coverage can turn real-life blood, sweat and groin tears into a sort of bloodless fantasy league.
CBS’ Clark Kellogg, on a Sunday night conference call, says “it’s a challenge” to tout the players — “the college game, quite honestly, has been about the teams” — and repeated the axiom that in college basketball it’s the name on the front of jerseys that counts. Steve Kerr, who’ll call the Final Four along with Kellogg and Jim Nantz, says now “the tournament itself is the star, especially these days with the lack of true star power. … The fans don’t have the opportunity to know the great players because they’re done after one year.” Besides, says Kerr, “the quality of play is down” in college basketball, partly because “the game is far too physical” and “all the rules favor the defense.”
Of course, buzzer-beaters will be hyped. Just don’t expect to recognize — or maybe care much — about who makes the shots.