Concluding that college sports’ governing body “wants CBS to be both a broadcast partner and a lapdog”, the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman is less than shocked at the tone of last Sunday’s NCAA Tournament selection show.
Jim Nantz and Billy Packer did exactly what they should have. They asked tough questions. The only legitimate gripe Littlepage had was the total disrespect Packer and Nantz showed him. This was not surprising.
After all, Packer invented college basketball, right?
And didn’t Nantz invent the NCAA Tournament?
Still, the issue of their egos is small potatoes. The bigger one is this: How will Littlepage’s words affect CBS’ coverage of the tournament? The verbal counterpunch he threw is still ringing in CBS suits’ ears.
Once TV spends billions (CBS shelled out $6 billion to the NCAA) to buy sports rights, it is partners with the league it purchased those broadcast rights from.
That’s what made Littlepage’s remarks so unusual. He went public, basically telling CBS Sports/News boss Sean McManus to, “Rein your guys in. That’s the least you can do for your partner.”
Could Littlepage’s words have a chilling effect on the CBS voices working the tourney?
On a journalistic level they won’t. CBS coverage of the NCAA Tournament never was, and never, ever will be, a journalistic enterprise. During today’s Ohio State-Davidson matchup, CBS’ voices will do everything in their power not to mention that the Buckeyes were hit with three years’ probation and ordered to remove their 1999 Final Four banner from their arena.
Graduation rates of tournament particpants won’t be discussed. Neither will the criminal activities of certain University of Connecticut players.
The dark side of college basketball would only get in the way of CBS’ “one shining moment” shtick. And the majority of fans is tuning in to watch hoops, not a sports version of “60 Minutes.”
But viewers are tuning in to get unfettered analysis of these games. If there is a bad call, will CBS voices rip the officials? Or will the residue of Littlepage’s line encourage them to sugarcoat the situation?
If a coach, maybe even one Packer has anointed with demigod status, steps out of line, will Packer condemn the bad behavior? Or is that coach a partner, too?