No matter how much suspense and drama the Final Four delivers this weekend, it’s fair to presume that the shining moments will be overshadowed by the men’s basketball tournament’s most shocking and unfortunate moment.
The gruesome leg injury suffered by Louisville guard Kevin Ware during the Cardinals’ regional final victory over Duke last Sunday will not be put out of mind any time soon by those who saw it happen.
That includes CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg, who with the aid of some quick thinking by CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, executive producer Harold Bryant, and the rest of the production team, did an exceptional job in lending the proper tone to the broadcast as the post-injury scene unfolded.
“It was as raw and emotional a circumstance as I’ve been involved with as a broadcaster,’’ said Nantz. “When you’re there, and it’s that close to it, it’s really hard to get that image out of your mind. You replay it in your head over and over again. We’ve seen football injuries, but football players have pads on. Basketball is so exposed.”
The network did not go to commercial while Ware was being attended to, and showed the footage of how the injury occurred just twice, from different angles. The tone was unyieldingly appropriate and respectful to Ware’s plight during the nine-minute span from when the injury occurred to the return to game action.
“It was a relatively easy call to make because of the gruesome nature of the injury,” said McManus. “Not only because the decision was the right one but because the guys on-site really didn’t say much for a long period of time and it was one of those situations where the pictures really told the story.”
The tournament has been successful for CBS and its partners, TBS, TNT and truTV.
Ratings are stellar, with the tournament averaging a national household rating of 6.2 and a share of 13.
Viewership is at its highest since 1994 and up 11 percent from a year ago, with 9,701,000 total viewers across the four television platforms.
Nantz believes it’s a compelling Final Four, even if a lot of brackets were busted along the way
“No, I don’t think that there are many brackets across the country that held up,” Nantz said. “A lot of people had Louisville getting there, and rightfully so. That is a dynamic, electrifying, spectacular team and it’s going to take a lot for any team to beat them in Atlanta.
“But when you look at the mix, you have a Cinderella team in Wichita State, and it’s always good to have a Cinderella story going into the Final Four. And you have two teams that are really peaking at the right time and aren’t afraid of the big stage and the big game in Michigan and Syracuse.”
The Final Four tips off Saturday at 6:09 p.m. on CBS with Wichita State-Louisville. Syracuse takes on Michigan in the second game, which starts 40 minutes after the conclusion of the earlier game.
The pregame show begins at 4 p.m.
No line changes
Has Jack Edwards, the play-by-play voice on NESN’s Bruins telecasts, mellowed out or toned down the hyperbole this season? Though I don’t recall any references to, say, a ragtag band of farmers lately, he’s seemed pretty much the same enthusiastic (yes, some might use a less gentle adjective) game-caller he’s always been. But there is a growing perception that he’s changed his style to some degree this season — it was a brief topic Thursday on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan” show, and it’s been brought up here via various correspondences. So what do you say, Jack? Have you consciously changed anything about your approach to calling the game? “Nothing,’’ Edwards said via text. “The team isn’t as dynamic.’’ Then he added: “Of course, #68 [newly acquired Jaromir Jagr] could juice things up a bit, especially on [Tyler] Seguin’s wing.’’ In other words: Stay tuned . . . Speaking of polarizing hockey media folk, in case you missed it, here’s what Mike Milbury had to say on the NBC Sports Network’s “NHL Live’’ Tuesday regarding the trade that sent Jarome Iginla from the Flames to the Penguins: “It was shady. There were some things that I didn’t like at all about that. It’s too bad we didn’t find out more about it.” Bruins fans require no reminder that the deal was consummated after the Flames had told Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli that his team would get Iginla. Here’s hoping Milbury elaborates further on that particular conspiracy theory.
One of the more obvious tweaks to NESN’s Red Sox broadcasts this season is the addition of the Pitch Zone, a graphic that tracks the location and velocity of every pitch. Early reviews from viewers seemed split based on my rudimentary Twitter polling.
I like it, though it may sometimes seem redundant with the sponsored Amica pitch zone, a tool used by analyst Jerry Remy to break down an at-bat pitch-by-pitch after the fact.
While noting that such things are always subject to change, NESN spokesman Gary Roy said that NESN intends to continue to use the Pitch Zone as a constant graphic when the familiar center-field camera shot is on the screen.