The unveiling of the brackets for March Madness, which is a scant 48 hours away, takes on a little different meaning this year, for three intertwined reasons:
1. The field has expanded to 68, so now Tuesday and Wednesday will include four play-in games to get us to the ever symmetrical 64-team "go time" bracket.
2. CBS's usual stellar coverage will be supplemented with some help from the Turner family of networks, so every single minute of every single game will be available on either CBS, TNT, TBS, or TruTV. Which means....wait for it....
3. Charles Barkley is now prominently involved in the coverage of the NCAA tournament!
This is a win on any number of levels, not the least of which is that I would watch Charles Barkley analyzing or opining on any topic. No, seriously, I would watch Charles Barkley convey his thoughts about ANYTHING -- basketball, politics, the economy, Bieber, dermatology, termites, ANYTHING. (Mostly because when it all breaks down, and he has nothing incredibly insightful to say on a topic, he'll still just tell someone they're a jackass and/or to shut the hell up.)
Enter Billy Packer.
You all remember Billy Packer, right? The curmudgeonly coot that handled analyst duties for CBS's marquee games for the better part of the last three decades?
Billy Packer...non sports fan?
Billy Packer...non computer owner?
Basically, sheer bliss to Billy Packer is yelling at kids to get off of his lawn while he goes back to churning his own butter and listening to his phonograph. And it wouldn't be March if Packer, who retired from actively calling games three years ago, didn't have something to bitch about. This year it's the expanded television coverage of the NCAA tournament, and the inclusion of several Turner-employed NBA analysts (Barkley, Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, to name a few) to handle college basketball analysis.
Packer basically thinks the ESPN family of networks would be a better outlet for the tournament games (from USA Today):
While crediting CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus with doing an "incredible job" in getting Turner to help share the TV rights fees, he says the NCAA was only interested in maximizing its revenues rather than finding a "better way to show the tournament. Otherwise, ESPN would have the tournament in its entirety."
ESPN would be better, he says, partly because it has announcers doing college games all season. He likens using NBA announcers to when he used to turn down requests to work NBA action by saying, " 'I'm not qualified, it's a different sport.' " This, he says, is like CBS' Verne Lundquist calling SEC football all year "and then having somebody who just did the pros come in to call the SEC title game." And, he says, ESPN would have better NCAA promotion: "I don't believe I was in a promo for CBS college basketball in 25 years."
Packer went on to list a few more reasons why change in the new millennium is a bad thing -- something about viewers enjoying having their games interrupted and the Tuesday and Wednesday play-in games being a cash grab (DUH!) and worse alternative to whatever ESPN will be carrying that night (poker and billiards, anyone?).
Fortunately for all of us, Charles Barkley is on the team which Billy Packer was deriding, giving Charles a chance to get off this gem:
Forget about Barkley's highlight film as a player (which I have embedded here before), I'm far more giddy about Barkley's ever-expanding Hall of Fame résumé as an announcer to grow this March!
So shut the hell up (Billy Packer!) and sit back and enjoy a few Charles gems to get ready for next week. The Madness is almost here....
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Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.