NCAA BK

The NCAA tournament drinking game

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Brian Lowry

A media columnist and critic for Variety since 2003, Brian Lowry spent seven years at the L.A. Times and has contributed to both NPR and TV Guide Network. He writes weekly for FOX Sports. A UCLA alum, Lowry proudly attended the '95 title game. MORE>>
 
   
 

CBS and the Turner networks are no doubt thrilled — or at least breathing a sigh of relief — over their shared NCAA tournament coverage. Initial ratings surged to the highest level in 20 years, seemingly justifying both their four-games-at-once approach and the $10.8 billion the companies jointly committed to secure TV rights for the next 14 years.

Of course, that’s not to say the coverage itself — which, predictably, cooled a bit ratings wise after the opening days — has been perfect. Far from it.

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So to assist viewers with their enjoyment of the tournament, I’ve distilled the quirks and excesses into a drinking game for use in subsequent rounds. And because FOX Sports supports imbibing responsibly, the list includes a few frequent annoyances that nobody should dare risk incorporating into such a game, lest they put themselves into a coma.

Do take a drink when:

The studio crew spends more than 15 minutes after a game analyzing the officiating. Yes, Pittsburgh-Butler was a disaster, but at a certain point, arcane discussions about parsing the official rulebook become every bit as boring as that sounds.

CBS analyst Clark Kellogg refers to play-by-play man Jim Nantz as “partner.” It was cute the first, oh, 15 times. Now it’s just irritating.

An announcer uses a painfully redundant phrase, like “He can really rebound the basketball.” Um, as opposed to what — rebound a can of peaches?

The last three minutes of a game — thanks to timeouts and foul shooting — take more than 30 minutes to play. Nobody wants to go home early, but down 12 with 80 seconds left, losing coaches can turn things into a hostage situation.

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CBS’ Gus Johnson gets just a bit too excited. Yes, this is his signature — he even admitted to the New York Times that he tries to give his calls “extra sizzle, as a performer” — but somehow it spoils things when the announcers act like the game they’re watching is way better than the game you’re watching. There’s nothing wrong with being enthusiastic, but don’t scream in my ear and try to convince me that it’s really Beyonce whispering into it.

The camera pans the crowd and reveals the arena is half empty. This was especially true in the early rounds, with TV setting the schedule and games running 'til well past 11 p.m. on the East Coast. Pretty soon they’re going to need Industrial Light & Magic to insert computer-generated fans in seats to create a sense of excitement.

Nantz promotes CBS’ coverage of the Masters golf tournament and sounds like he’s going to cry. Yes, it’s a course like none other, etc., but for heaven's sake, calm down.

 

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The two teams have combined for less than 60 points at halftime. Defensive struggles might win tournaments, but man, they can be a snooze from a spectator standpoint.

Coaches look antsy to cut halftime interviews short. The coaches might be obligated to field questions from sideline reporters, but I’ve yet to see one who doesn’t look like he’s itching to bolt for the locker room.

Now, please, for your personal safety, do not take a drink when:

You find yourself squinting at the on-screen graphics. While it’s a great idea to post scores for all the games in progress, trying to read the tiny superimposed print is a prescription for eye strain.

TNT’s Charles Barkley casually insults somebody —- or makes his colleagues squirm. Over the weekend Barkley pleaded with TNT not to repeat “Speed 2” after the game and told a newspaper he wants to discuss some of the schools’ poor graduation rates. Compared to most studio yakkers, the guy’s a national treasure.

The network cuts to a pained-looking coach’s wife in the stands. Isn’t it enough to see the coaches bust a gasket without tormenting the whole family?

CBS’ Bill Raftery punctuates a sentence with a guttural bellow. Like Dick Vitale, Raftery’s shtick has effectively swallowed his game, producing strange outbursts that sound more like a Jackie Gleason impersonation than analysis.

TruTV runs a promo for a show you wouldn’t watch in a million years. Now that the network formerly known as Court TV has contributed to Turner’s tourney onslaught, you can find the channel on your dish or cable box. The good news is it won’t take very long to forget it.

Email:lowryonsports@gmail.com. Twitter: blowryontv.

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