This is the time of year that reminds me of the old saying, “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who don’t, none will ever suffice.” There is a ‘happening’ that takes over the last half of March. It has nothing to do with the weather; nor is it race, religion, or even gender driven. It is simply an ‘understanding’, an ‘appreciation’.
It is MARCH MADNESS! The NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
On Sunday 65 universities and colleges, with Division-1 basketball teams will find out if they are going to be part of one of America’s biggest events. The “Big Dance”, as it’s called, equates into “big money” for those teams and conferences that are a part of it. So where does all the money come from? CBS has anchored itself as the official broadcasting company of this 3-week long spectacle for more than 20 years now. It pays out hundreds of millions of dollars to have the exclusive rights to each and every game. In turn, CBS receives millions more than it pays out in advertising revenue, not to mention an opportunity to promote all of the other shows it broadcasts.
CBS has mastered the ability to bring excitement to this tournament played by young scholar athletes. Beginning with its hour-long selection show, sponsored by a car company, wireless phone company or pizza franchise, the hoop-hype is fueled. Which teams are in? Which team was overlooked? And the debates begin.
In the past CBS has delivered A+ performances with their coverage of the tournament. Its polished pre-game report, sponsored, of course by the latest car you need to drive or male enhancement drug, traditionally hosted by Greg Gumbel and an array of coaching and tournament experts, sets the scene for the coming hours of basketball nirvana. The games themselves are called and commentated on by the very best in the business. With the likes of Jim Nance, Dick Enberg, Mike Gminski, and the ‘love him or hate him’ Billy Packer, even the casual basketball fan is fed everything they need to know about each team and its players. Can you say ‘information overload’? Of course to help bring you the ‘You are there’-feeling, CBS has also positioned courtside reporters near the benches, again sponsored by some bottled water company or tension headache reliever, to bring you the latest news on a possible sprained ankle or a player losing his contact lens. CBS and the NCAA are also offering again this year, March Madness On Demand. Internet surfers now can head to www.ncaa.com/MMOD and register to receive full access to Every game being played during the tournament.
Perhaps the best part about CBS’s broadcast of the games is its timing. Strategically staggered, almost like the pieces of a well-designed puzzle, the games start and finish within minutes of one another. It’s the producers’ hopes that one close nail-biter will lead into another barn-burner, and into another, and yet even another, with their ‘Live look-in’ feature. (Yes, there are advertisers for that too.) And my gosh, year after year, CBS nails it. This year’s first round games are likely to see #12 vs. #5–seed and #11 vs. #6-seed upsets. And that starts the buzz! CBS also longs for those ‘Cinderella’ stories that keep the casual fan interested for maybe a couple more games. Who will be the next Gonzaga, Villanova, or NC State?
All games being played in this year’s tournament for the next two weeks will eventually form this year’s edition of the ‘Final Four’. One team from each of the tournament’s four regions will make their way to Indianapolis, the site of this year’s Championship round. Then let the hoopla (no pun intended) begin! From Monday to Friday the Final Four teams will appear for team photos, open practices, and news conference after news conference. All of this leads to the two National Semifinal games on Saturday afternoon, April 3rd , and culminating with the National Championship game set for Monday evening, April 5th . And through it all, rest assured, CBS will have its cameras and announcers there, followed closely by its wave of high-paying sponsors.
So excuse me now, while I park my Chevy in the garage, turn on my SONY- HD television, open a bag of crunchy-baked Doritos, order a Papa John’s Ultimate deep dish pizza, chill up some Dasani bottled water, and find some Tylenol severe migraine relief tablets (in case my team loses), and oh yeah, watch the games.