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Greg Gumbel Compares Previous Era of March Madness to Current Coverage

“I think everybody recognizes in our business the chaotic nature of it. The fans, all they want is the good clean feed of what they want to see.”

Ricky Keeler

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For 24 years, the broadcaster that has become the most synonymous with the NCAA Tournament on CBS is Greg Gumbel.

Of course, the coverage of the tournament has drastically changed since CBS merged with Turner Sports back in 2011 to televise all of the games. Before then, you had to rely on either CBS to be the remote control or buy the Mega March Madness package on DirecTV.

Gumbel was a guest on the most recent episode of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with Jimmy Traina. According to him, in the old days of covering the tournament, CBS knew they couldn’t please everyone so they tried to make decisions that would please as many people as possible.

“All of the games were available, but it was a whole greater good kind of thing,” said Gumbel. “The home markets where the teams were from would always get their games, but there were times that we deemed it necessary that Kentucky-UNC is down to the final minute and a half and let’s take you to the end of that game. There are some people who no matter what happens don’t want to be taken away from their game or their team. In that era, you weren’t going to please everybody, but you were trying to please most.”

“Sean McManus, we joke about it a lot,” he continued. “Before the merge with Turner, CBS was doing all of the games and it became necessary to throw from one game to another. You are never going to please everyone like that, so I would get all the complaints on my CBS voicemail and I would forward them to Sean. He came into the studio one night and said don’t do that anymore.”

In the new era of covering March Madness, Gumbel explained that there can be some chaos, especially when it comes to giving updates with all of the games going on.

“I think keeping up with everything that’s happening at a time, especially those first two days of the tournament,” he said, “Of course, towards the end of the evening, you kind of just start getting used to who’s who on what teams and then 24 hours later, it’s entirely different names, numbers, and uniforms. It’s a matter of keeping up and it gets to be a little chaotic at times because they want you to do an update here and quickly do this update over there.

“I think everybody recognizes in our business the chaotic nature of it. The fans, all they want is the good clean feed of what they want to see. Back in the old days, what they wanted to see wasn’t always what they got.”

With CBS merging with Turner Sports, Gumbel has had the chance to work with Charles Barkley often and while he doesn’t compliment people very much, Gumbel had high praise for Barkley because of his honesty about the game.

“I try not to compliment people too much because it might go to their heads, but I told Chuck I don’t know who else in the country can do commercials without seeing their picture and you know who it is,” said Gumbel. “That said, he is one of the most magnanimous, giving people I have met in a long time. He also is very quick on the air. He can take a joke and also can throw a few shots back at you too.”

“Working with him is most interesting from the standpoint that you just don’t know what he is going to say. There are a couple of times I will turn to him and I’ll say let’s talk about that first half and he will go Greg, that was the most boring half of basketball I have seen in my life. You think, well, the bosses are going no, don’t say that. But he is honest and straightforward and knows the game of basketball.”

While March Madness could still go on without watching Gumbel lead the coverage, he has become the main voice to a generation of fans every March. That can’t be forgotten even with the CBS-Turner merger. 

Sports TV News

Nick Wright: The Best Version of First Things First is What We’re Doing Now

“I used to approach the TV show with the perspective of I have to prove how smart I am to the audience every single day.”

Ricky Keeler

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Nick Wright has been a co-host on First Things First on FS1 for the last five-and-a-half years. The show has evolved over the years and according to Wright, he has evolved as a broadcaster from the time he got cut from doing play-by-play at WAER in Syracuse to now.

Wright was a guest on The Colin Cowherd Podcast this week and he said that when he first appeared on television, he wanted the audience to think he had all the answers, but the mindset has changed for him and he said the new version of the show that he does with Kevin Wildes and Chris Broussard every weekday is the most successful version of the show.

“When I got on TV, I think the first year maybe, I thought the job was to always have all the answers. To have the facts exactly right, to never be wrong. I’ve now done the show for five-and-a-half years. By a country mile, the most successful version of the show is the one I’m doing right now — this moment — with Wildes and Broussard. It’s the funniest and that’s why.

“I used to approach the TV show with the perspective of I have to prove how smart I am to the audience every single day. Now I approach it as our entire goal is to put on a show that people smile while they are watching and have a good time and that has enough meat to it where it is not all empty calories. There’s got to be the information, there’s got to be the analysis, but there’s also got to be a lot of bells and whistles and funny stuff and guys messing with each other and that’s what works. That took me a while to figure out.”

The only time when Wright didn’t think he had to prove how smart he was when he first appeared on TV was when he would appear on The Herd as Cowherd’s guest and he had a goal in mind whenever he would appear on the show.

“Early in our relationship, I was really, really trying to impress you and I wanted to make you laugh. Every time I came on, I was like ‘It’s successful if I made Colin laugh’. I was too stupid to realize I should just be trying to make the audience laugh, too… That was the best version of me at the time. I felt like you knew I was smart, so I wasn’t trying to prove it to you. I could be the best version of myself.”

While Wright knows he is not a traditional broadcaster, he mentioned to Cowherd that there is one skill set he definitely knows he has.

“The point is I’m not a great broadcaster, like a traditional broadcaster. I can’t read off a teleprompter, but there is a specific thing I can do, which is confidently argue, whether it’s 1-on-1 with my wife or in front of a million people.”

Even though Wright got cut from doing play-by-play at Syracuse, he told Cowherd he was doing talk shows at the station still and it led him to where he is today.

“I was fortunate that I was already working on the talk-show staff. Growing up, I thought I wanted to do play-by-play, but what I wanted to do was color commentary. I would watch the NBA on NBC with Bob Costas, Bill Walton, and Steve ‘Snapper’ Jones and what I wanted to do was the color, but I didn’t realize you can’t do that unless you are a former player or a former coach. They aren’t hiring me to do commentary

“I was crushed, but it made me fully pivot to talk shows. Now at WAER, the talk show studio is named after me and my picture is on the wall. I am a Hall of Famer there. Bob Costas, Marv Albert, Nick Wright, those are the three studios there.”

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Sports TV News

Outside the Lines Won’t Return to ESPN Weekend Schedule

The show, which debuted in 1990, aired as a daily show from 2003 to 2019 and aired a Sunday-edition from 2000 to 2017.

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ESPN has decided to not return Outside the Lines to its weekend lineup, ending the show’s linear television run.

A report from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal claims ESPN told OTL staffers that the show wouldn’t return to the network after the Super Bowl.

The show, which debuted in 1990, aired as a daily show from 2003 to 2019 and aired a Sunday-edition from 2000 to 2017. Outside the Lines was often regarded as the “moral compass” of ESPN, and was often the source of some of the more investigative reporting employed by the network.

Outside the Lines — which was airing at 9:00 AM on Saturday mornings — averaged 303,000 viewers in the timeslot. Meanwhile, SportsCenter: AM has seen an average audience of 572,000 in the same window.

The Outside the Lines brand will continue being utilized during the Noon ET SportsCenter, as well as ESPN digital platforms, including the network’s YouTube page.

Jeremy Schaap will continue to host the Outside the Lines segments during SportsCenter, but will also be the host of a new iteration of The Sports Reporters that will air on ESPN’s YouTube channel. Schaap’s father, Dick, was the host of the ESPN Sunday morning program from 1988 until his death in 2001. The show aired on ESPN from 1988 to 2017.

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Sports TV News

CBS: Calling Meeting With Tony Romo ‘Intervention’ is ‘Complete Mischaracterization’

“We meet regularly with our on-air talent.”

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An opening question in broadcasting circles is ‘What happened to Tony Romo?’, with even CBS reportedly pondering the issue.

During The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast earlier this week, The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand claimed CBS attempted “an intervention” with its lead NFL analyst.

The intended mission of several alleged meetings with CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and CBS NFL producer Jim Rikhoff was to return Romo to his previous heights, which were widely regarded as the best NFL analyst in the business.

CBS Sports has responded to the insinuation that the meetings would be classified as an “intervention” with a strong denial.

“To call this an intervention is a complete mischaracterization, we meet regularly with our on-air talent,” CBS Sports spokeswoman Jen Sabatelle told Marchand

Marchand added that CBS Sports officials plan to attempt to rectify the issues it sees with Romo again this offseason. Romo — who signed a 10-year, $180 million contract with CBS Sports in 2020 — is slated to call Super Bowl LVIII in 2024 with Jim Nantz.

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