Advertisers paid CBS more than a billion dollars during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament last year to give the perfect opportunity to check that other game, so naturally company executives realized the bottom line needed beefing up. That led to some genius coming up with this Sunday:
In case you were fortunate enough to not be sitting mouth agape on your couch during Charles Barkley’s imitation of your 84-year-old uncle tackling the iPad somebody donated to his old folks’ home, what you’re watching here is a live television show trying to wow viewers with its combination of cutting-edge technology and basketball coverage by parading out a guy who doesn’t know what a touch screen is or anything about the basketball he’s supposed to be talking about.
As Ernie Johnson stands at his side, looking for all the world like Chris Christie at a Donald Trump campaign rally, the Round Mound of I Still Have A Flip Phone repeatedly touches empty bracket lines assuming the computer, being a computer, will know what he meant for it to put there. In fact, it’s not clear Barkley ever figured out how he got Maryland on the line beside South Dakota State, but, relieved that he’d finally conquered the machine, Barkley smoothly transitioned into analysis by remarking that the Terrapins were “probably, other than North Carolina, the most talented team in college basketball,” though he had “no idea why they lost 10 games.”
Wait, you probably thought. Maryland only lost eight games. Oh … Barkley has moved on in his head to California, the game below, and he just figured you, like the magic box on the wall, would know that. Still, that was positively lucid compared to Barkley going on to call Vanderbilt-Wichita State “the best first-round game ever” before triumphantly picking Vanderbilt (which lost 70-50 in what was most certainly not the best first-round game ever) and getting seriously stuck after he placed Vanderbilt on the Round of 32 line with a win over Arizona.
As he tries to “go back,” Johnson and Kenny Smith plead with Barkley to touch Arizona, for the love of God, just touch Arizona. His expert Midwest Regional preview climaxes with a pronouncement that he’s a “metrosexual.” The only thing missing was Barkley breaking out a bottle of Wite-Out.
By now, we’re 30 minutes into what is going, for the first time, be a two-hour show, and everyone realizes what a catastrophic mistake this has been. Dozens of teams still have no idea if they’re in the tournament because we still have three brackets to go. The planning for CBS’s naked money grab apparently consisted of, “hey, according to this calculator, if we take a one hours and add one more hours, we’ll have twice as much money! So tell those guys to talk about stuff for two hours!”
Only that could explain how what was once a crisp, professional late Sunday afternoon broadcast became this tedious abomination. Insulting college basketball fans by forcing them to listen to TNT’s NBA crew all but bragging about how little they knew about college basketball was bad enough, but things weren’t much better the rest of the time. Tedious interviews. Laborious, repetitive “analysis.” You could imagine producers off camera holding up cards reading “six more minutes! We need you to talk for six more minutes!”
Luckily, the internet reaction was swift and harsh, and someone on the inside finally decided to show the country mercy by leaking the bracket online midway through. The train crash culminated with the show’s lowest ratings in 20 years.
Good job, CBS. I still want my two hours back.