I thought this would be a good time to deviate from the norm. I’ll still take a look at this weekend’s Final Four (one of the best in recent memory), as well as offer my picks (for what their worth) for these truly pick em games. But let’s face it, I’m not going to offer much in the way of original and informed insight. Not with all the media, insiders, and writers converging on Atlanta this week while I sit in front of my laptop in Brooklyn. And no, I’m not bitter at all…
I did get thinking though about the fact that I just spent the better part of four weeks inhabiting CSTV, the right arm of CBS for all things March basketball. This was CSTV’s second year with the CBS affiliation. Might as well have been the difference between night and day. Last year was such a cyclone it felt like at best we were controlling the chaos. When it was over there was a distinct and pervasive feeling of accomplishment buzzing around the network. It was a feeling, however, accompanied by a comparable sense of relief.
This year was more of a tropical storm. There were some heavy winds, but the foundation of the network remained solid. The preparation was impeccable. The coordination between working parts was consistent and succinct. The final product was nearly flawless. And the side stories were unforgettable.
First, let me introduce myself. I’m the teleprompter guy. The guy whose job it is to quite literally make the script of the show go. While our anchors, Adam Zucker and Greg Amsinger, aren’t as dependent on the prompter as, say Ron Burgundy, it nonetheless makes their lives much easier when their scripts are running in the right place, at the right time. The duty of the teleprompter is very basic, yet integral to the overall operation of the show. Chances are if you receive any recognition on prompter it’s because you suck and are screwing everything up. That said, as long as you’re not prone to slipping into uncontrollable catatonic states, prompting is quite the manageable task.
So that was my principle duty throughout the tournament. Needless to say CSTV has a variety of programming just for hoops. Among the shows are Gametracker Live, a highlights and analysis show; Full Court Press, which brings live press conferences from players and coaches, along with in-studio analysis; Tourney Talk, a call-in show dedicated to shootin’ the breeze about the tournament, and March Madness Highlights.
We also have a rotation of in-studio analysts. Since I spent my waking life hanging around these guys the last month, allow me to now introduce the most notable coaches and personalities who helped turn the wheels of CSTV this past March.
Seth Greenberg: Current coach of Virginia Tech. He’s ushered in a basketball renaissance in Blacksburg, a notorious college football town. With his recruiting and leadership the Hokies have quickly become a force in the ACC, arguably the nation’s most storied basketball conference. He’s also a great TV personality. After Virginia Tech lost to Southern Illinois in the second round of the tournament, he naturally became the Salukis’ biggest advocate, deeming them the “junkyard dogs”. Put simply, an ego armed with a catch phrase makes for excellent television.
Dereck Whittenburg: Current coach of Fordham. He inherited the remnants of a basketball program in 2004 after Bob Hill finished reaping his path of destruction at Rose Hill. In three short years Whittenburg has morphed Fordham hoops from an utter embarrassment into an 18 win team. Just how embarrassing were they? The Rams were 2-26 Hill’s final season. Then the St. Bonaventure program became engulfed in a recruiting scandal and one of its sanctions was to forfeit every conference win, including its two victories over Fordham. That made Fordham the first team to win more conference games (three) than overall games (two). “3-13 in the A-10, 2-26 overall,” I told the coach. “Talk about embarrassment.” I then told him he’d be hearing from me soon enough to write the whole story. Takers? CSTV.com?
Brian Curtis: CSTV’s basketball insider and a regular contributor both in-studio and out in the field. He’s knowledgeable and witty, but sometimes adopts a little too much of a “holier than thou” approach to his business. Given his diminutive stature and propensity for speaking in the third person through a distinctly nasal voice, it’s difficult not to crack a smile when he’s up to his antics. He’s also the host of his own show, aptly named, Taking Issue with Brian Curtis. If CSTV could just allocate a camera crew to follow him around 24-7, I swear Taking Issue would make for great reality television.
Steve Lappas: To sum it up, Lappas is the man. Formerly the head guy at Villanova then UMass, Lapp is a bundle of energy and information with great presentation. He’s one of those few coaches that when you see him doing his thing, you just know he’s cut out for TV. And he’s Greek! So he obviously took all the producers and talent out for a nice Greek meal between shows one night. They dined on the likes of avgolemono (egg-lemon soup), spanakopita (spinach pie), and octapothi (grilled octopus). The unique victuals were warmly received by all. Well, except for a few unwilling stomachs… Yasou Lapp!
Jonathan Coachman: A guest host for CSTV who makes his bread and butter working/wrestling within the ranks of the WWF/WWE. One day when I arrived at the studio and settled down at my station Coachman was in the middle of quite a doozy of a story. Recounting for anyone within earshot, he was detailing the typical revelries of professional wrestlers (like they need articulation). Let’s just say these guys love blizzards. The Coach, meanwhile, assumed the role of the overzealous weatherman, giving us a play by play of one such Noreaster. Classy. In a related story, be sure to check out “My Coke Fest”, part of CSTV’s killer Final Four lineup live from Atlanta!
(I’m serious, check it out: http://www.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/stories/032906aar.html)
So as you can see, all around wild and wacky fun times at CSTV this month. And there is much more to come (in addition to My Coke Fest, of course). This year the network is operating exclusively on-site in Atlanta, thus the whole CSTV-shabang has been transplanted to the Georgia Dome and its surroundings. Oh, and in case you were wondering, they won’t be requiring teleprompter services. However I did tell Amsinger if he found himself unable to exist without prompter to merely give me 18 hours notice and I’d hail a Greyhound. And NO, I’m not friggin bitter.
Okay, maybe just a little bitter. Hey, it could be worse though. I could be a Kentucky fan. In case you missed it, a caller from Kentucky phoned into our live Tourney Talk show and summed up pretty accurately the state of bitterness:
“I just wanna say, f**k Tubby Smith.”
Duly noted sir, duly noted.
Onto the picks…
Florida over UCLA Gators are the champs, and in order to be defeated a team will have to line up, grab them by the throat, and not let go until there are quadruple zeros on the clock. If UCLA wants any shot of winning this game they should take a look at the 2007 AFC Championship Game or the 2004 NBA Finals. The Colts and Pistons both seized an opportunity to go for the jugular of a dynasty, and held on with the grip of an ironman. That’s the only way to topple the mighty. It’s just not going to happen to Florida until there’s a giant present to force the issue…
Ohio State over Georgetown No one had seen the real Greg Oden until Joey Dorsey checked himself into the Pantheon of Idiotic Statements before the Regional Final between Ohio State and Memphis. Dorsey might be a tree of a man, but Oden is a woodchopper. Dorsey called Oden overrated, and Oden in turn, chopped some wood. Steve Lappas didn’t exactly have to go out on a limb when he referenced the whole “sleeping giant” thing, but the point has been made. Not by Lapp. By Oden.
Take it away ATL!