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TV ratings for the NCAA men's basketball tournament are at levels "unseen since the mid-1990s" thanks to a "fine combination of Cinderellas, powerhouses, ingenuity and vaudevillians," according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV entering the Sweet Sixteen are averaging a combined 5.5 rating for tournament coverage, up 15% from a 4.8 last year on CBS and marking the "best first-week average since 1994." Turner Senior VP/Strategy, Marketing & Programming Christina Miller: "We're in a good place with ratings. The excitement is about the consumption across all platforms and all networks and that the appetite for the Tournament is growing. That is in line with our belief that there was pent-up demand for the tournament that we are now able to serve." Barron notes with games "spread across four networks, there's almost as much time for pregame, between-game and postgame chatter as for the games themselves." Viewers "expected opinions and one-liners from" TNT's Charles Barkley, but CBS analyst Seth Davis, "who has been teamed in Turner's Atlanta studio with Matt Winer and...Steve Smith, has had some choice one-liners of his own." CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus: "The good thing about combining CBS with Turner talent is that we have seen a diverse mixture of opinions. Seth (Davis) has always been lively, and now he's getting a chance to exhibit that" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/24).
HELPING WITH HIS DAY JOB: ESPN.com's Dave Wilson noted studio analyst Kenny Smith has "heard all the concerns about his TNT NBA crew doing college games," but he "thinks the experience overall should help him with the NBA gig." Smith: "It's only going to help you for the NBA because you have a better association with these kids." Smith added of working in the CBS studio during the tournament, "I'm enjoying it. I think it's a lot of fun. It's work, though. It's really hard work because of the hours, not because of the games. We went 16 straight hours with only four-minute breaks. That's just physically tough." Smith noted he and Barkley are "already signed on" for future NCAA tournaments. Smith: "You're gonna see us for a while doing college basketball" (ESPN.com, 3/23).
LOVING THE MADNESS: CBS announcer Gus Johnson will work tonight's games from New Orleans, and he said of broadcasting the tournament, "I just think that it is the greatest job that one can have, especially for somebody like me who loves not only college ball, but basketball in general." In New Orleans, Nakia Hogan notes Johnson's style "has earned him the nickname of 'Screamin' Gus' by fans and critics," but he "makes no apologies." Johnson: "It's a very genuine thing, because I really like what these kids are doing out there on the floor. And once you watch them and you get to know them, you kind of feel a part of it. And you want to delight in their excellence" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/24).
TIMING ISSUE: In Jacksonville, Jeff Elliott wrote fans have "come to expect great games in the tournament," but what they "shouldn't expect, however, is a game that ends shortly before midnight on Sunday." TBS, TNT and truTV on Sunday began their coverage after 6:00pm ET, which "meant, for example, that the Florida State-Notre Dame game didn't start until" 9:45pm. Elliott: "It's another example of the student half of student-athlete being trumped by the all-mighty TV dollar" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 3/23).
HOOP IT UP: The tournament was the subject of some corporate synergy last night, as the Top Ten list on CBS' "Late Show" was dedicated to the "Top Ten Signs You've Been Watching Too Much College Basketball" ("Late Show," CBS, 3/23).
10) "Answer the phone 'Hellohio State?'"
9) "Been having erotic dreams about Verne Lundquist."
8) "Named your kids Xavier, Duke and Notre Dame."
7) "You've started injecting nacho cheese intravenously."
6) "Begin each day by inflating your pants."
5) "Ask your girlfriend to marry you using a dry erase board."
4) "No number four – writer at Buffalo Wild Wings waiting for games to begin."
3) "Actually know what TruTV is – honestly, people, what the hell kind of a name is that?"
2) "You've spent thousands on plastic surgery to look like Jim Boeheim."
1) "Your wife refers to your fat ass as the 'Big South.'"
In the first column for ESPN as part of the Poynter Review Project, Poynter Institute Ethics Group Leader Kelly McBride examined President Obama plugging Japan relief website USAID.gov "before he made his picks on camera" for both the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments. Prior to ESPN filming "what has become its annual installment of Barack-etology, Obama's critics chimed in, suggesting that the leader of the free world had better things to do, given the civil unrest throughout Middle East and North Africa, and the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown in Japan." ESPN reporter Andy Katz and the rest of the net's crew "were not surprised when the president's staffers informed them that Obama planned first to plug the relief site." Katz said that he "never felt pressured by the White House to leave the president's remarks intact as a condition of the interview." He said, "There were no conditions. It was never said, never, that if you don't do this, we won't do this. Never." McBride noted Katz "planned to say something about the earthquake anyway," so when he "learned that Obama was thinking the same thing, he wanted to make sure the White House staff understood ESPN's independence." Katz: "We just said we can't promise how this will be edited, but this seems like the right thing to do." McBride wrote, "Those are tough choices to make. Aid to Japan had nothing to do with the president's NCAA picks. But Katz went into the story thinking it was relevant, so the charity plug made the cut. Ultimately the ESPN staff directly involved in the story had a lot of independence."
A CHANGE OF PACE: McBride explained she and partner Regina McCombs will "look for the pressure points, big and small," as part of ESPN's aspiration to "serve and hold the network to its own high standards." McBride and McCombs "will write a monthly column, as well as a couple of shorter installments as developments warrant." Some of those "might look a little different than those of previous ESPN ombudsmen." McBride added, "We hope to bring transparency to this very large company by peeling back the layers of decisions that culminate in both success and failure, and all that falls in between" (ESPN.com, 3/23).
National Speed Sport News, one of the "most famous motorsports publications in the country, is ceasing its print product after 76 years," according to Nick Bromberg of YAHOO SPORTS. National Speed Sport News Publisher Corinne Economaki in a statement said, "This is one of the saddest days of my life. The sluggish economy has made it too difficult to continue publication and no matter how I try to make the numbers work -- and believe me I have tried -- it is just not feasible to keep the business going." Bromberg noted the magazine "will continue to have an online presence." Like "many print outlets recently, NSSN found revenues dropping as more people found their information online for free." During its 76 years of publication, NSSN "became one of the go-to sources of information for those inside and outside the industry" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/23). The first edition of NSSN "was dated Aug. 16, 1934." Chris Economaki, the publication's former publisher, "sold that first issue at Ho-Ho-Kus Speedway in New Jersey, began writing for the paper soon after and became editor in 1950" (AP, 3/23). In Charlotte, Jim Utter notes NSSN is the "only motorsports periodical on Library of Congress microfilm" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/24).
END OF AN ERA: ESPN.com's Ed Hinton wrote, "In its prime it wasn't fancy, just authoritative. ... If the Sporting News was 'Baseball's Bible,' then Speed Sport was auto racing's Bible, Koran, Torah, Wall Street Journal and New York Times" (ESPN.com, 3/23). RACINTODAY.com's Rick Minter: "It's a tough day for anyone who loves motorsports" (RACINTODAY.com, 3/23). AUTOWEEK.com's Dutch Mandel: "I got sucker punched today. It happened when I opened an unassuming e-mail whose subject line was 'End of An Era'" (AUTOWEEK.com, 3/23).
Woods' swing app allows users
to analyze their swings