When I learned over the weekend that the CBS Selection Show would change to a two-hour format, I groaned. In fact, before the program even started I tweeted out this:
But I wasn’t going to get too bent out of shape about it. Sadly, this year I had no dog in the race. In the past I was at Selection Sunday events with the universities I worked for doing all I could to capture reaction/content the moment we heard the names “Montana” or “Coastal Carolina.” This season there was no such pressure. I told myself I would just relax and hope the show would go by fast. If I was lucky, the only team I cared about in this year’s tournament, Gonzaga, would get called quickly. It couldn’t be too bad, could it?
Little did I realize what a train wreck it was going to be.
By now we all know what transpired. The first 38 minutes or so of the show was a complete gimmick. After the slow announcement of the #1 seeds and too many commercials, a quarter of the field was finally announced. After those 16 teams were revealed, the broadcast went to another commercial. Then the wheels really started to come off…
When the show returned, the NBA on TNT guys started to make picks on who would come out of the quadrant that was just revealed. Never mind waiting for the whole field to be announced, the producers obviously had an interest in predictions for just the partial bracket.
If the snail paced flow of the show and the questionable decision to pick teams before the whole field was announced didn’t ruffle enough feathers, the mishaps that followed brought out the social media venom in many. Charles Barkley couldn’t work the touchscreen technology when attempting to make his picks. Ernie Johnson tried to help him along while Kenny Smith and Seth Davis just laughed. It was a very uncomfortable and unprepared segment in the show.
With the program now running nearly an hour long, the second region of the bracket was finally revealed. As I shook my head at the monstrosity on my TV screen I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the bubble teams who were being held hostage as they waited to hear whether they were in or out.
The moment I tweeted that out, a swift wind of justice swept through Twitter. For the first time EVER, the NCAA tournament bracket was hijacked and made available to millions before CBS could reveal the entire field. The nervous student-athletes gathered together for their watch parties at team meeting rooms, restaurants, and campus locations no longer had to depend on Ernie and Charles and the two hour CBS greed fest.
With one of the biggest spoilers in the history of sports television circulating around the internet, CBS did what they had to do. Ditching the painfully slow plan, the network picked up the speed and quickly revealed the rest of the bracket. With at least 35 minutes of the show to go, the tournament field had been “officially” announced (and of course, Gonzaga was the last team to be revealed).
What happened yesterday was unfortunate. While I dislike 120 minute selection shows, I also dislike the foiling of the greatest surprise in sports. While I was glad the bracket leaked for the sake of the student-athletes, as a fan I found it a little disappointing. With that said, the whole snafu wasn’t something that kept me up last night. It was a lesson and I hope CBS adjusts next year. In the past, the CBS Selection Show has been very well done. Because of the excellence of the previous 34 selection shows, I am giving the network a pass this year. Time to move on and enjoy some great basketball. Don’t Blink.