My folks planned my older sister Amy’s Sweet 16 surprise party at a restaurant. Planned. When she was dropped off at the entrance, the maître D’ asked, “Are you here for Amy’s surprise party?”
Last week, ESPN wrecked some televised, team-gathered surprise parties when its business partnership with the NCAA led to the revelation, four hours before they were supposed to be first revealed on ESPN, of selections and seeding in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. Surprise!
But there are honest mistakes, and there are crooked ones, those attached to being caught.
ESPN stood up and took the hit it deserved. Its apology was strong, sincere, no excuses. Though a mistake of colossal neglect, it had to be an honest one or an act of sabotage. Why, otherwise, would ESPN wish to wreck its own exclusive selection show?
ESPN did well to disarm the aggrieved with an honest confession.
That brought to recall the other kind know-in-advance, deal-from-the-bottom caught-ya “mistake,” the dishonest kind Howard Cosell refused to admit.
In the 1984 U.S. Olympic boxing trials, televised by ABC with Cosell ringside, Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker fought Joe Belinc in the lightweight final.
It was too close to call, but not for Cosell. When ABC returned from commercials, Cosell, in his humble but learned opinion, said Whitaker had won a close decision. Of course, he did.
Referee Chuck Hull, as he later admitted, had already told him. He’d been tipping Cosell to the pre-announcement results all day.
Hull also told him the judges’ score, 3-2 — but the scores of the matches were not announced.
So when Whitaker’s arm was raised as the victor, Cosell smugly said, “So there you have it, Whitaker, 3-2.”
Cosell refused to address my published accusations, only to further degrade the print media as a cabal of the jealous out to get him, the one shining gem of sports broadcast journalism.
Eventually, 25 years into covering and exploiting boxing and boxers for his own fame and fortune, Cosell came to the sudden conclusion that he’s too good for it — as it’s fraught with betrayals, brutality and bad guys. Only took him 25 years to realize his mistake. Surprise!
Networks’ tournament coverage shooting bricks
NCAA Tournament stuff: The closer the game, the tougher the watch. The final 1:39 of Friday’s Iowa-Cincinnati ran, ugh, 17 minutes. The Big Slow Dance.
While CBS and Turner have again cluttered their NCAA Tournament telecasts with flashing, inapplicable stats, non-essential stats, important ones have again gone ignored.
New Mexico State lost by one to Auburn because it missed five free throws in the final two minutes. Yet CBS/Turner, even in their full-screen halftime stats, seldom even lists free throws.
But are we spooned some nonsense. With 12 minutes left and Auburn up six, play-by-player Andrew Catalon alerted us to this: “It’s a two-possession game!”
CBS and Turner studio shows are already ahead of last year’s pace for obnoxious, transparent forced laughter, sustained belly laughs over nothing worth a grin.
Not-Quite But-Close Mike Francesa Tout of the Tournament: “Tennessee is going to kill Colgate” — Charles Barkley on Friday adding UT, an 18-point favorite as a 2-seed, could win it all. Final score: UT, trailing in the second half, won 77-70.
Not that my opinion counts, but here’s what I’d do: The moment Steve Lappas’s early-round-only analyst assignments are finished, place him in an crowd-free studio and let him provide show-and-tell basketball. He’s exceptional, and unafraid to swipe at coaches. Fun and educational!
Most remarkable unaddressed stat, thus far: Belmont, play-in winners over Temple then two-point losers to Maryland, has no — as in zero — players from outside the U.S. These days, what was once a given, is rare. Maryland has recruits from Spain, Bosnia and Angola.
Well, shut my keyboard! Three’s-a-crowd excess — Brad Nessler, Steve Lavin and Jim Jackson during Friday’s Texas Tech-Northern Kentucky on TNT — occasionally and accidentally works. Credit Nessler for allowing Lavin and Jackson the space they needed to be heard and enjoyed.
Daggumit, nice to see “I know nothing” UNC coach Roy Williams — who had no idea his recruits for years, including two national championship teams, remained eligible via no-show classes — has landed a car TV endorsement. How many credits for Driver’s Ed?
Friday, with 13-seed UC-Irvine taking the second half lead over No. 4 Kansas State, a K-State turnover — and a huge one in the upset — was missed because TBS/CBS was busy with needless close-ups and crowd shots.
Coarse continues to replace clever, crass a substitute for class. The Tournament has included a commercial for a cell phone showing two men standing at a urinal. Bold and edgy, eh?
Shoot, that’s a lot of shootings
Wednesday night, during the Arizona State-St. John’s play-in, sideline reporter Ros Gold-Onwude reported that in late December the younger brother of ASU forward Zylan Cheatham, Wanyaa Stewart, was shot and killed in a Phoenix street hassle.
She added that Cheatham’s cousin and a good friend were “also gunned down this year.”
Thursday, in the early first-round Tournament game between LSU and Yale on Turner’s truTV, we were told that just before the season LSU lost 20-year-old junior Wayde Sims to a Baton Rogue, La., street shooting.
Reading further into it, the suspect, Dyteon Simpson, 20, is charged with shooting Sims in the head outside “a party” at 12:30 a.m.
Minutes later on TNT, New Mexico State forward Johnny McCants played. It wasn’t mentioned, but his brother, Daemund, last year was shot in the head at a “party.” He’s now neurologically impaired.
That’s the prevailing, worsening sorrow: Such stories have become a dime a dozen, a yawn. Guns. Everyone carries. Sad, not shocking. Stuck in reverse with the gas floored.
Why no protests from Colin Kaepernick, activism by Nike or cries from the otherwise selectively outraged.
The Mike Mayock/Jon Gruden Raiders have quickly established a home for the insufferably infamous — the acquisition of all-about-me wide receiver Antonio Brown followed by the addition of all-about-me linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The Bengals lost the late lead and the 2016 playoff game to the Steelers after Burfict was flagged for a late-hit attempt to decapitate Brown — again.
Samuel Adams is now the Official Beer of the Big East Conference. Next: The Official Fake ID Provider of the Big East Conference.
Three things we’ve yet to hear or read from even one reader: 1) They’re going to miss Al Leiter’s non-stop analysis on Yankees telecasts. 2) They’re going to miss Odell Beckham Jr.’s professionalism. 3) They relish the superfluous, third-wheel wisdom of “The Michael Kay Show’s” Peter Rosenberg.
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