CBS set its NCAA goals too high

Phil Jackman

April 05, 1991|By Phil Jackman

The TV repairman: One of the problems CBS ended up having with its coverage of the NCAA basketball tournament was verbal, not in what ended up on our screens. This isn't to say the play-by-play people, analysts and reporters didn't do a good job, some did. Rather it was the network's boast that as exclusive carrier of the tourney it was going to knock our socks off with never-to-be-forgotten coverage.

It just didn't work out that way. Regional weekend was the usual, the Final Four just as it had always been on this same network. However, the net's confidence that it would not only match but exceed ESPN's wall-to-wall handling of the first and second rounds was badly misplaced. The drama, the feel, the information, the excitement were absent, perhaps still on file somewhere back in Bristol, Conn., home of ESPN.

Of course, CBS will filibuster how great it was having reporters right there eavesdropping on the team huddles during the big game. But is a telecast better served when Lesley Visser tells us Coach Blowhard warned his players to watch out for the back screen?

* "This Week in Baseball" kicks off its 15th season (already?) tomorrow with ageless Mel Allen back at the microphone . . . Oh, joy, yet another Skins Game. Yeah, it will combine PGA and Senior Tour players and be shown as part of the weekly stop May 18-19 on NBC.

* To this day, NBC continues to pat itself on the back for wrenching the NBA away from CBS. But you have to wonder if the deal was so wondrous after all upon seeing the prime time ad campaign pushing pro hoops. Lousy ratings? No, the network explains the campaign is part of the four-year deal with the NBA, the league picking up $10 million a year in non-sports promotional time. And, oh yeah, baseball is about to infringe upon the NBA playoffs, isn't it?

* Sudden thought occasioned by television's coverage of the Duke basketball team. Now that the lads from Durham have won their first NCAA title, will Christian Laettner report directly to the U.S. Senate or will he return for his senior year?

* Despite it's deplorable showing in the Sports Emmy Wars -- it got one while ABC got a dozen, ESPN seven and CBS six -- NBC Sports says it is not suspending operations. Considering some of its talent and inventory, you have to wonder who's running the show, Elmer Fudd?

* Last Sunday's WLAF game on ABC -- New York/Jersey at London -- was an invective-laced disgrace due to the miking of players and coaches. Strangely, the network half defends itself, spokesman Mark Mandel stating, "We had less than 30 calls. That doesn't sound like a [fan] groundswell."

Mark, baby, 30 calls constitutes a groundswell when only 65 or so are watching. What next, open mikes in the locker room and a feature on the cryptanalysism of the etchings on lavatory walls?

On the subject of lend-lease football, foreign franchises are outdrawing the American teams by nearly a third while averaging 35,645 fans, most of whom still don't have the slightest idea what's going on.

* While the network purveyor of baseball, CBS, is waiting around to do its first telecast in a couple of weeks, perhaps it could feign some interest in the Grand Old Game beyond serving as a loss leader to introduce prime time programming in the fall by running the Roger Clemens suspension-appeal business as an afternoon soap opera. The debacle has already run longer than "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" did on Broadway.

* Just 113 days until the NFL exhibition season is upon us, ABC sending along the Denver-Detroit debacle. The storyline is already set: will John Elway have a big year and lead the Broncos back to Super Bowl humiliation?

* CBS hoops analyst Billy Packer, who doubles as a publicist for his buddies in the coaching profession, had this to say during the NCAA final: "Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams are both entry-level coaches as graduate assistants, a job that college presidents say they've got to do away with."

* News item: The hiring of a former player, who did not have an undergraduate degree and was not enrolled in graduate school when he became a graduate assistant, has been added to the list of improprieties Syracuse is investigating in its basketball program.

* Seniors golf tourist Bob Brue told a cable audience, "I used to play golf with a guy who cheated so bad that he once had a hole-in-one and wrote down zero on the scorecard." . . . USA Network will be doing the first two rounds of next week's Masters beginning Thursday before CBS slides in for the weekend . . . One wonders what Johnny Miller thinks when, after his expert analysis of something happening on a golf course, NBC colleague Joel Myers pipes in, "Exactly."

* Memorable line from hoops analyst Larry Conley during the NCAA tournament: "That's four fouls on Koury Hallas [of Eastern Michigan], who is part Indian."

* The Blast and the Baltimore Arena would do well to adopt Kansas City's format of playing muted music during game action. It provided a pleasant backdrop for a recent game on Channel 45, works fine at gymnastics meets, isn't distracting and would get rid of the yelping we've become inured to here.

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