Tuesday Pop Review- 2011 March Madness

Welcome back for another Tuesday Pop Review!  Today we are calling a minor audible from the usual script of books, restaurants or movies/shows to review an annually iconic part of our pop culture which concluded last night — the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament a/k/a “March Madness.”  Since 1985, the tournament has fielded between 64-68 teams, resulting in an office pool phenomena known as “brackets,” allowing casual fans to get caught up in the sport over a three-week stretch.    

CBS has owned the primary rights to cover the tournament since 1982.  After a 9-year run from 1982 to 1990 where ESPN dominated coverage of the tournament’s first round, CBS acquired exclusive rights over the tournament from 1991 to 2010.  The result, particularly at the start of the tournament, was 4 marathon days of regional coverage that many sports fans characterize as their four favorite days of the year. 

Regional coverage meant having one game featured locally with live “look-ins” at other games being played simultaneously, including coverage switches if another game was more competitive than the one being featured.  The system was not perfect, but it was the best we could get.  Even upgrade options such as pay-per-view packages to see all games or live coverage on the internet had their flaws (i.e., delays or performance issues with internet viewing, pay-per-view feeds still being subject to live look-ins of other games, etc.). 

All that changed this year.  In 2010, Turner acquired joint rights to broadcast the tournament with CBS.  While fans were skeptical at first, the product was amazing.  Now, through the use of 3 Turner networks (TBS, TNT and TruTV) along with CBS, fans were able to enjoy the following upgrades:

Full national coverage of each game scattered across the networks.  Once you spent 2 minutes of your life figuring out where TruTV was on your dial, you had every game played at your fingertips.   Not to mention, for the first time ever, QUINTUPLE-headers on the first Saturday and Sunday of the tournament, as opposed to the typical quadrupleheader Saturday and tripleheader Sunday. 

Significant upgrades in game broadcasters.  With the infusion of the Turner team, fans were treated to familiar broadcasters like Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Reggie Miller and sideline reporters such as Craig Sager and David Aldridge.  These pros not only were there, but clearly did their homework on the college teams. 

Turner studio stalwarts.  It was not only great to see Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley & Kenny Smith participating in the studio, but also fascinating to see how CBS mixed and matched its team with Turner team members.  While most fans probably expected to see CBS’s Greg Gumbel in one studio with Greg Anthony and Seth Davis, more often than not Gumbel was with Anthony, Smith and Barkley, while Ernie manned another studio with Seth Davis and typically another guest analyst. 

March Madness was rejuvenated this year from a broadcast perspective.  The fans could not ask for more.  Now my bracket… on the other hand…. don’t ask!!!   (See ya tomorrow!).

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