Press Coverage: Winners Bracket, Schilling, EA, iPad & All Our Sports Mashing Together

↵This day of sports overlap is very confusing to me. Is Monday traditionally Opening Day or is it National Championship Night? Can it be both, at least inside your sports brain? With that in mind, my head has created a mashup of Madness for a day like Monday. What if the CBS announcing team for the entire NCAA Tournament was set up like a pitching staff? There were eight announcing teams throughout the NCAAs for CBS, and if you look at the National Championship game as the equivalent of Game Seven of the World Series, who would you want hurling for you? ↵

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↵First, let's recap the players. For the sake of brevity, we'll keep the announcing crews together. Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg are calling the Final Four. They also, obviously, called the Regionals along with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery, Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas, and Gus Johnson and Len Elmore. The first and second round games were also called by Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel, Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner, Tim Brando and Mike Gminski and Spero Dedes and Bob Wenzel. That's the staff we're working with here. ↵

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↵Next, the innings: there are actually 10 innings in a college basketball game if broken down by TV timeouts, but for the sake of this analogy, we'll combine the first two and consider the start of the game until the 12-minute timeout as the first inning where teams are still trying to get loose and feel each other out. ↵

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↵This is Game Seven, so clearly CBS is going with Nantz and Kellogg. Personally, I'd go with Lunquist and Raftery, but knowing CBS always goes with their ace in big games, we'll save Verne and Raf as a lefty specialist – dare I say Raftery's best attribute is his ability to come at the game from a different angle than most (rimshot!) – out of the pen. ↵

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↵Alas, we'll give Nantz the start, as he and Kellogg are best suited to get through the start of the game and set the table with CBS talking points and requisite plugs for other shows when there's a big audience and less drama in the game. If the game gets out of hand early – Kellogg gets lost in a sea of calling the basketball so many different types of vegetation he gets his oranges confused with his pumpkins – I'd call on the crew of Eagle and Spanarkel or Harlan and Bonner to get us to halftime. Both crews proved to be solid, if unspectacular, during the early rounds. Most likely, they won't be needed. ↵

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↵If Nantz and Kellogg can go six innings – meaning they can make it to the 12-minute mark of the second half – the bullpen is set up nicely. You'd want to make sure to save room for Enberg and Bilas, if for nothing else because Bilas would shine on this stage and prove to be a bigger star than he already is, but in a Game Seven situation, it'd be hard for CBS to trust the retiring Enberg with a game that's close and late. He did an admirable job during the tournament, but there are better options. Now, if Bilas were teamed with the young fireballer like Dedes, you'd be looking at your new set-up crew. Maybe next season. ↵

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↵If the game is a blowout by this point, there are a few arms left to plug in and do paint-by-numbers broadcasting, making sure to hit on all the CBS plugs of the Masters and Survivor. But if it's close, and you're under 12 minutes, the ball goes to Lunquist and Raftery for two innings before handing it over to the closer. ↵

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↵Yes, I'll admit that this whole baseball is the NCAA announcing crew mashup was just an elaborate rouse to get to use Gus Johnson as The Closer. After all this, I couldn't even come up with a good Kyra Sedgwick joke. If the National Championship game is close – if any college basketball game is close – Gus Johnson, with Len Elmore, should be called in to do the last four minutes. If it goes to overtime, it's all Gus. The bullpen is shut down once he comes in. ↵

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↵Actually, what's wrong with CBS giving us a choice? ESPN has done multiple networks all covering the same game, so why couldn't CBS have Nantz and Kellogg do the game for CBS, but give us the chance to hear Johnson and Elmore call the game on a secondary feed on MMOD or CBS College Sports? We don't even need Johnson and Elmore the entire game. Like the online "Boss Button", the network could employ a "Gus Button" for a game that's under four minutes and within five points. The unbridled enthusiasm of Johnson will surely be better than whatever Nantz has already scripted for Duke or Butler should they win. Oooh, unless Nantz goes off book should Butler upset the Blue Devils. Hearing Nantz should "Hoosier Daddy Now?" would be so worth it. ↵

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↵Winners Bracket is a Nice Saturday Distraction ↵
↵I'll admit that I don't watch SportsNation on ESPN2, and it's based on my allergy to Colin Cowherd. The man makes my skin crawl and gives me a feeling of wanting to vomit, so I'm just assuming that's an allergy, right? ↵Maybe I should see a doctor. ↵

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↵The shame is that my aversion to Cowherd has made me miss out on months of Michelle Beadle, who has to be the breakout star of 2010 for ESPN. That's why Winners Bracket – part of the ESPN block of programming on ABC's late Saturday afternoons – is perfect for her. An hour a week where Beadle gets to run through highlights with the extremely likeable Marcellus Wiley could be a win for ESPN and ABC. If you missed it, I spoke with Wiley on Friday and asked him about the interaction between the two hosts: ↵

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↵⇥"Anything goes on this show. I see a highlight that I support and she sees a highlight that she supports, we make them compete against one another. I'm going to pump up my highlight to the nth degree with my personality and my insight and she's going to do the same. The beautiful thing is, I'm going to make fun of hers. ↵⇥

↵⇥"When you get (highlights) into a competitive bracket system, great is not even great enough. You have to do something exceptional, you have to do something unbelievable to advance. That's where we're going to be pitted against each other trying to convince the viewers, the fans, the nation of what our arguments are." ↵⇥

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↵Let's admit one thing: this show is not exactly for die-hard sports fans. If you watch SportsCenter every day, you've seen these highlights countless times. The bracket gimmick is okay, but I do wonder how it will play in August when nobody is thinking about March Madness and everyone is looking forward to football season. But again, the point of the show isn't the highlights, or the brackets, it's Beadle and Wiley. They could be starring in a buddy cop drama – they should be starring in a buddy cop drama – and that would be the reason to watch the show. ↵

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↵So, will their interplay work week after week? I kinda hope so. I do think they need to tone down the "Oh wow what a great highlight" reaction during the airing of each clip. We know you've seen them before and this isn't new, so feigning knee-jerk excitement gets old, especially after the fifth time we've seen a dunk or goal with you. Adding in "expert" testimony was fine, and bringing in Jalen Rose or Alexi Lalas to talk about specific basketball or soccer plays made good sense. Brining in Mike Greenberg – in a suit, no less – to share in the final vote segment seemed out of place, unnecessary and only served to completely undercut the growth of Wiley as Beadle as ESPN-branded stars. Maybe there's a Greenberg bump on Saturday afternoons of which I'm unaware. ↵

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↵This was a fun show, but could easily be trimmed down to half an hour. An hour of showing the same highlights over and over again, adding in a few YouTube clips that went viral months ago, seemed like a stretch. At the very least, the show can be a pleasant distraction on a lazy weekend afternoon. ↵

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↵People are insane about Erin Andrews and it's sick ↵
↵It's one thing to be obsessed with someone on TV and write letters or bombard their Twitter feeds with comments, hoping for a reply. It entirely another thing to be so insane that you'd write emails of both a sexual and violent nature to a radio show and not expect to get a visit from the FBI. ↵

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↵To say you hope a woman who covers sports on TV, and is featured on a dancing show, gets "murdered in L.A." or "shot in the face" means you need help. And you should go to jail for a long time. This kind of stuff makes me hope my daughter never becomes famous. ↵

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↵The iPad Revolution of Sports ↵
↵Christopher Byrne of Eye On Sports Media had an interesting take on the new iPad: it can revolutionize college sports. There's been much talk in the last few months of the NCAA banning media guides, which (as someone who has designed and printed media guides for more than 10 years) is the most short-sighted and irresponsible-draped-inside-fiscal-responsibility concept only the NCAA could possibly dream up. People like to hold books, and put them on their shelves. Yearbooks are a historical look at a school and a team. To take that away as some sort of playing-field leveler or cost-saving measure is embarrassing. The world still needs print media, and it's ironic that an organization as archaic as the NCAA would try to be progressive with this. ↵

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↵Byrne may disagree with me, however, and gives the iPad potential credit for the official death of media guides: ↵

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↵⇥Getting ready for a live game production is a paper intensive event. Producers, associate producers, production assistants (broadcast associates in the parlance of CBS Sports and FOX Sports), and on-air game talent spend countless hours going through media guides, online sites, and historical information to prepare for a game. When they arrive at a game site, they are laden with the heavy and mostly useless print media guides that contain SOME information they may need during a broadcast. When they leave, they more often than not toss them in the trash to lighten their load.
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↵⇥In fact, the recent drive by the NCAA to eliminate print media guides has many that work in the sports broadcast industry cringing. On-air talent (and their statisticians) need a reference they can quickly open to get the information they need. The current idea being pushed by the NCAA and some conferences is to put the information on-line. In the parlance of Twitter and other social media, this is a big #FAIL for a number of reasons. ↵⇥

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↵Byrne goes on to explain that putting information online doesn't help in many of the press boxes in America, as TV stats would need to be called up via often-unreliable internet sources. He also mentions that PDFs are "a whole other nightmare," to which I'll simply blame the person who created the PDF for not doing it properly. ↵Byrne thinks if everyone just had an iPad, they could call up all the stats they want, stored for each game through some college application that could be developed by the start of next season. Add in the fact that the iPad is much easier to hold that a "bulky" media guide, and he thinks you have a winning plan. Of course, everyone now needs to go buy iPads for their talent. And someone needs to develop a universal application that all the teams will employ; perhaps something that links directly to StatCrew. Who knows, Byrne may have a bead on that app already. ↵

↵Maybe all those boosters who buy media guides every year to put on their shelf can just by an iPad as well. Eh, the NCAA will figure out a way to legislate that from happening too. ↵

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↵ESPN's Baseball Coverage Gets Even More Obnoxious ↵
↵I like John Kruk. He's a former player who speaks his mind, and, let's be honest, he's a former Phillie, so I'm predisposed to like him. He may over-simplify everything, but that's okay if there's a balance on the set. Sadly, if Sunday Night is any indictation, there may not be enough of a balance. ↵

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↵I'm a media geek, so I always like getting information from Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian. ESPN used both well, but had a bulk of their show, especially the lead in to game time, overstuffed with former players and coaches. Nomar Garciaparra seems like a good fit for ESPN as an understated former player who is entirely likeable. But that new addition has been balanced by Bobby Valentine and Curt Schilling. I'm not sure there are two baseball people I could name who have a higher opinion of themselves than Valentine and Schilling. Oh, wait, I didn't mention Joe Morgan, who is also on ESPN's Sunday night telecast. So there's one. ↵

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↵Valentine may know his baseball, but he's the quintessential expert on everything. And yet, in a sea of blowhards, ESPN managed to hire someone even blowhardier...the blowhardiest of them all, in fact (there's not an actual word I could use to describe him better) in Curt Schilling. The hire just makes so much sense for the Worldwide Leader. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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