Shooting from the lip/March 18th edition
The latest from the airwaves ...
Announcer of the day
The hardest working person at the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday for the NCAA basketball tournament? Here's a vote for CBS play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle.
Calling a single basketball game takes hours of preparation. Calling two in one day is above and beyond the normal call of duty. Four? Ridiculous. But that's what Eagle did Thursday along with on-air partner Jim Spanarkel. Eagle and Spanarkel have been doing this for 14 years, making them the longest-tenured college hoops team on CBS. And for the 14th consecutive year, Eagle somehow found the voice, energy and research to call four games — back to back to back to back. And these aren't your run-of-the-mill regular-season games. These are the most-watched games of the college basketball season.
"It sometimes feels like you're about to take a final exam and you haven't gone to class all year,'' Eagle said. "But then you get there, and it all comes together.''
Eagle learned he was headed to Tampa to call the second and third rounds just a couple of hours after the NCAA bracket was revealed Sunday night. Within minutes, he was studying the teams. He had a little more than 72 hours to learn the names and numbers of eight teams -- or about 100 players -- as well as the ins and outs of their seasons.
"Most years, of the eight teams, I know two of them really well and have a working knowledge of four more,'' Eagle said. "That leaves two teams I know absolutely nothing about. I mean nothing. Sometimes, I have to look up the nicknames of the team.''
But come tipoff of the first game, Eagle has to sound as if he has been calling each team all season. Eagle says he doesn't break down each of the eight teams as much as he studies the four matchups. Like each year, Eagle said there was a moment during Wednesday's practice day when players’ names and numbers started swirling into one big jumbled mess. But that panic attack dissolved, and everything came into focus by the time Clemson and West Virginia started play a little after noon Thursday. After that, Eagle's biggest challenge was to maintain his voice and energy level for the next 12 hours.
"I know it sounds corny, but what drives me is knowing that for most of these kids, this is the biggest game they will ever play in,'' Eagle said. "When they pop the tape in 20, 30, 40 years from now, I want them to hear someone who sounded excited and prepared to be there. In the end, it's actually a very fun day; draining but fun.''
Schedule of the day
The NCAA Tournament has a new staggered schedule this year. The reason is twofold. It allows every game to be televised from beginning to end to the entire country. And ideally, it means the endings will be staggered, so fans won't be forced to choose between the finishes of more than one game. But there's more to it than just putting any game into any time slot. CBS wants marquee games (UCLA-Michigan State, for example) in prime time, but it also wants to avoid having two games on at the same time that might be of interest in the same area of the country. That can't always be helped. The second half of Thursday's Louisville game against Morehead State was played during the first half of Kentucky's game against Princeton.
The new format with games spread across four networks -- CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV -- also means television ratings for individual games will be down from recent years. But overall ratings and total viewership numbers likely will be up.
Time change of the day
If you're watching the NCAA Tournament, one thing you immediately notice is the length of the games. Blame television for that.
Commercial timeouts run longer than during the regular season, and halftimes have gone from 15 minutes during the regular season to 20 in the tournament. Television audiences aren’t the only ones who don't like it.
"The 20-minute halftime is too much,'' Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Thursday after his team's loss to West Virginia at the St. Pete Times Forum. "I understand why we're doing it, but it's a lot. You tell your guys some stuff, and there's not enough to tell them to fill 20 minutes.''
Brownell said he was out of things to say and there was still five or six minutes before the team went on the court to warm up for the second half.
The longer timeouts could have an effect at some point. A team that likes to run-and-gun or relies on high-pressure defense might not be as effective if its opponent has extra time to rest at halftime and during the game.
Show of the day
Feeding off the success of College GameDay, ESPN is taking its Sunday Baseball Tonight show on the road. Each Sunday during the season, Baseball Tonight will originate from the site of that night's ESPN game. Just like the College GameDay football and basketball shows, Baseball Tonight will construct its set outside the stadium among fans. The new setup debuts April 3 for the Giants-Dodgers game. The Sunday shows will air live at 12:30 and 7 p.m.
Radio item of the day
True story: Earlier this week, Darek Sharp, a WDAE-AM 620 producer, update guy and occasional host, posted a photo of a New Orleans VooDoo (Arena Football) cheerleader on his WDAE website page. Then Ron Diaz, the Ron half of the Ron and Ian Show, commented on the woman's anatomy and said the first word that came to his mind was "whore.'' The crew then compared that woman with the woman on WDAE website's "Thong of the Day'' photo. Doesn't every single detail of that story seem inappropriate?
Three things that popped into my head
1. The NFL players union is totally out of line asking college prospects to boycott the draft. This whole labor dispute is going to be settled eventually, probably before next season. To deny these kids, who have worked hard their whole lives for a chance to be in the spotlight along with their families at the draft, is selfish and arrogant on the part of the union.
2. It's interesting that former University of Michigan basketball player Jalen Rose said that when he was 18, he thought the African-American players Duke recruited were like "Uncle Toms'' and yet one of the players Duke heavily recruited back then was Chris Webber, Rose's close friend who turned Duke down to go to Michigan.
3. Doesn't it feel like spring training has been going on for like four months?