They had done so well, too. Every year at this time, hundreds of millions of people are glued to Greg Gumbel and his funky way of saying, “Chicago” during CBS’s coverage of March Madness. They normally do such a good job in their timing of switching games, updates, and keeping Clark Kellogg’s craziness in check. But it is that much more noticeable when someone that doesn’t normally screw up actually does. If you don’t live in the Kansas City area, here’s what happened:
Less than four minutes to go in the final regular season game between Kansas and Missouri. The Jayhawks lead by 14 points, but we all know the Tigers are more than capable of making a run, with their full-court pressing ability and three-point shooting. Then, the inexplicable happens: CBS cuts to a commercial in the middle of Tyrel Reed’s second free throw attempt with a little over three minutes still remaining. They do not come back. The words, “Michigan vs. Michigan State” hang on the screen like a technical difficulty. Then they do it. Just in time for tip-off, everyone in the Kansas City area, as well as folks living in Lawrence and Columbia, are now watching a game they couldn’t care less about even if the farm was riding on it. Armageddon ensues; the switchboard at the local CBS affiliate KCTV5 lights up like a fireworks display gone horribly wrong. The man in charge of the remote at all local bars is cursed at by patrons while he pushes every conceivable button. The Kansas and Missouri rivers boiled, John Brown and William Quantrill rose from the grave to fight to a second death, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!
Okay, the last part isn’t true, but the first two parts about the switchboard and man in charge of the remote are. How could CBS let this happen? Was the man behind the board a Michigan alum, pulling an elaborate prank? Did Gumbel’s hair spray garble satellite transmission, or maybe the astronaut driving the space shuttle accidentally hit the satellite? All these would have been more acceptable excuses than the one given. According to this article from the Kansas City Star, CBS said the problem was caused by a combination of, “sunspots and a satellite transponder issue.” I will admit I know almost nothing of how satellite communication works, but I’m going to call BS on the sunspots. I am also not much for conspiracy theories, but I have one that makes more sense than sunspots: ESPN and CBS have combined forces and agreed to never talk about a program so dominant, or the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi, to keep Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams from dismantling college basketball so that their teams are the only two left.
How else could this happen? Would CBS switch away during a Duke v. UNC game for viewers in Raleigh? Sunspots or no sunspots, coverage would be back in a nanosecond if a switch ever accidentally occurred. And yet, Kansas is left on the back-burner despite seven straight conference crowns, and a rivalry that goes back to the Civil War gets 30 seconds of review, while Duke v. UNC is the highlight of the night on SportsCenter. UNC won by 15, and the rest of the game wasn’t even that close; not to mention their fans storming the court after the win. You’re the 13th ranked team in the nation, and you have so little respect for yourselves that you storm the court after beating the 4th ranked team? KU v. MU was a four-point game, thanks to the expected comeback by Missouri that almost no one in either state saw thanks to CBS’s “sunspots.” I’m tired of the ACC bias; I thought it would die down when Billy Packer retired, but thanks to Dick Vitale, the bias is still alive and well. The Big 12, specifically the KU v. MU rivalry, has gotten almost zero love this season, as has happened every season in recent memory, and Coach K and Roy reap all the benefits.
Seriously, someone should keep an eye on those two, they’re definitely cookin’ somethin’ up.