High praise, ratings for NCAA Tournaments
Not to suggest that it’s a tradition unlike any other, but if Jim Nantz was on a plane to Augusta before the final notes of “One Shining Moment” aired Monday night, it wouldn’t be the most surprising revelation in the world. The man does not mask his love for The Masters.
Facetiousness aside — Nantz, the quintessential pro, of course waited until all of the festivities following Connecticut’s victory in the men’s basketball national championship game were complete before turning his attention toward golf — it is somewhat jarring how abruptly the tournament ends after three weekends of great fun. Some have golf to turn to. The rest of us have college basketball withdrawal.
So before we move ahead, let’s take a quick look back at a couple of media highlights from CBS and Turner’s joint production of the tournament.
■ With 21.2 million viewers turning in for the UConn-Kentucky final, CBS saw a slight downturn from the 23.4 million who tuned in for Louisville-Michigan last year. It was up, however, from the 2012 title game between Kentucky and Kansas. This year’s semifinal games, which were broadcast on TBS as well as team-specific broadcasts on TNT and truTV, drew massive numbers. UConn’s upset of Florida drew 11.7 million total viewers — though less than a million on the Huskies-centric telecast on truTV — across three networks, totaling an 8.2 household rating.
■ The decision, made in September, to swap Greg Anthony and Clark Kellogg’s roles proved to be a smart one. The articulate Anthony, who was a studio analyst since joining CBS in 2008, fit seamlessly alongside Nantz and Steve Kerr. Meanwhile, Kellogg seemed rejuvenated in the studio role he held for 16 years before moving to the color analyst’s role on the top broadcast team in 2009. Maybe it’s the Charles Barkley effect — Kellogg bantered with unexpected humor with Barkley and Kenny Smith. The latter duo brings out the best in anyone, save for Shaquille O’Neal.
■ Tracy Wolfson, whose prepared and respectful (but never deferential) interviews with coaches are always worth watching, is getting a promotion now that basketball is over. As first reported by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, she will become the full-time sideline reporter on CBS’s new “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts. Well-deserved.
All around supremacy
A note on ESPN’s superb coverage of the women’s championship game, which drew a huge 2.8 rating, up 40 percent from last year, with 4.27 million viewers:
Dave O’Brien, best known in our neighborhood as a Red Sox radio voice, was his usual informed and enthusiastic self during the UConn women’s mostly suspense-free rout of fellow unbeaten Notre Dame in the title game. But the game also served as a reminder that Doris Burke is as good as it gets — in any sport and any gender — at offering cogent analysis in just the right dose.
In particular, her early recognition that Notre Dame’s interior defense was inferior to what it needed to be proved prescient. Yet unlike so many other high-profile analysts (I’m thinking of Reggie Miller here), she does not constantly reiterate her point in a transparent search for praise once an observation starts proving true.
Burke, also a standout on ESPN’s NBA studio programming, gained a lot of recognition for her interviews with amusingly standoffish Spurs coach Gregg Popovich during her NBA sideline reporter days. But Popovich always had an underlying respect for Burke. Her work during the women’s final was one more reminder of how good she is at recognizing and communicating the subtleties of a basketball game.
Tommy points earned
Danny Ainge, whose candid commentary while filling in alongside Mike Gorman on Wednesday’s Celtics-Hawks game on Comcast SportsNet New England prompted Tommy Heinsohn to remark , “You’d never know he was the GM,’’ will serve as an analyst again Monday when the Celtics face the Sixers in Philadelphia. Ainge’s insights — whether it was on a “terrible” defensive breakdown between Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, his faith in Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger as 3-point shooters, or the potential “fireworks” of the offseason — were a reminder that he was once an outstanding color analyst (TNT, 2001-03). Gorman and Ainge will be joined, as they were Wednesday, by former Celtic Chris Herren, who will be the solo analyst Saturday night when the team is in Cleveland.
There should be much more in this space next week on various media outlets’ plans for coverage in advance of and during the Boston Marathon. But here’s one outstanding project that should be acknowledged now since it will air this weekend: ESPN’s “E:60 Presents Dream On: Stories from Boston’s Strongest” will premiere Saturday at 4 p.m. on ABC. (It will later air on ESPN April 15.) The one-hour special, hosted by Bob Woodruff, shares the stories of five survivors of last year’s Marathon bombings. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is among the narrators . . . The story of the friendship between Brady Wein, a 5-year-old Framingham boy who has battled cancer throughout his life, and Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes was told often last season, especially during the World Series in October when Gomes cited him as an inspiration. Friday night, MLB Network has a heartwarming follow-up. During “MLB Tonight,” which airs at 6 p.m., the network will update the story, which includes new footage of Gomes catching up with little Brady at Fenway this past Sunday to show him his World Series ring.
The NFL draft begins May 8, but the anticipation for the first round has been building pretty much since Super Bowl XLVIII ended. With that in mind, 98.5 The Sports Hub has added a one-hour program to its Sunday schedule over the next five weeks leading up the big day. Hosted by Patriots radio voice Bob Socci, it will debut this Sunday at 8 a.m. . . . There was some hope within WEEI’s walls that Christian Fauria would be the pick as the third voice on the revived “Dale and Holley” program. But the former Patriots tight end is expected to pass on any radio opportunity because of at least one potential national television option as an NFL analyst . . . The much-promoted John Dennis bachelor party extravaganza takes place Friday at Foxwoods. Anyone bringing Ryen Russillo as a plus-1?