Turn the sound down and CBS's coverage was beautiful

Phil Jackman

April 02, 1991|By Phil Jackman

Thank goodness the pictures did a good job of telling the story of Duke's NCAA title victory over Kansas last night. The glut of vapid talk and the Chinese water torture-ending of a typical college game did nothing to make the show memorable.

After exciting semifinal games Saturday, capped by Duke's pulsating victory over Nevada-Las Vegas, perhaps it was unfair to expect the championship to measure up favorably. In any case, CBS did us no favors with its "more is better" approach to coverage.

The abacus broke after the first thousand times play-by-play man Jim Nantz said, "We go to Lesley for a report."

Reporter Visser, situated behind the Kansas bench, would invariably fill us in on what Jayhawks coach Roy Williams had just said to his troops. Talk about immediacy and inside scoops.

And, of course, for every shot Lesley got from the Kansas side, there was James Brown filling us in on all the neat talk emanating from the Duke huddles. "During that timeout," revealed eavesdropper Brown, "Mike Krzyzewski told his guys to keep the pressure on."

Together with commentator Billy Packer attempting to analyze every single dribble during some stretches and studio hands Pat O'Brien and Mike Francesa putting their two cents worth in before, during and after, clearly the talk proved an annoyance of the first order.

Admittedly, the game just sort of sat there going nowhere for long stretches. But assuming a million or so words delivered by throngs of people would pump some life into it was folly, especially with so much of the "reporting" qualifying as no more than filler material.

Imagine, a Kansas player with a bad back having analgesic rubbed on it. Lesley unearthed that one.

Packer, before his true instincts took over and he assumed the role of head cheerleader for his beloved ACC, made a series of worthwhile statements early but never bothered to explain them.

For instance, citing some anomalistic statistics concerning the losers, he said, "It's an unusual style of play Kansas has," but he let it lie there.

Regarding tourney star Bobby Hurley, Packer said "his thought process has been so good since February," as though an explanation wasn't in order.

All game long, Kansas players would receive a pass in good position to shoot, but would lose any advantage they had by taking a needless dribble. No one said a word about this or the fact that the tight-as-a-drum Jayhawks missed a ton of easy shots.

Until a Duke spurt put its lead up in double figures, viewers probably expected the announcement, "we interrupt this broadcast to bring you a first-round game from the NIT." That's how shaky the game had been for too long.

Throughout, director Bob Fishman stuck with action on the floor with rare exception, switching to excellent long range pictures when one of the teams would go to a trapping defense and an overall picture was needed.

Fishman assumes you know at a basketball game with several thousand rabid fans on hand great emotion is shown. Why show us after every hoop?

The game gave every indication of finishing within two hours with some semblance of continuity to the final buzzer. Fat chance! The final two minutes consumed 20 minutes, thankfully for the network, which has millions in rights fees to recover via a firestorm of ads. Thing is they come so fast and furiously, it becomes difficult to fit the game back in among the stoppages.

Often times, this leads to a final impression of one just having leafed through a J.C. Penney catalog instead of having witnessed the ultimate game of a five-month college hoops campaign.

One extremely satisfactory result of the outcome is it puts to rest the tedious story line about the monkey being on Coach K's back for his team having never won the big game.

No more than 15 minutes after the final whistle, the best game analysis was coming from Jim Valvano and Dick Vitale on ESPN, but that's another story.

"So, for all of us at CcccccBeeeeeSssss, this is Pat O'Brien saying so long and it's time to start thinking about baseball." Huh?

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