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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. 

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Leafs Nation Network, the Toronto Maple Leafs Channel, Is Going Off the Air

“Thank you for your viewership. As of Sept. 1, Leafs Nation Network TV services will no longer be on air.”

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The Toronto Maple Leafs launched Leafs TV, a team-specific specialty channel in 2001 and rebranded it as Leafs Nation Network in 2017. However, after nearly twenty-one years on the air, it will fade to black at the end of August.

“Thank you for your viewership,” the channel told viewers who have tuned in recently. “As of Sept. 1, Leafs Nation Network TV services will no longer be on air.”

The news was confirmed to the Sun. Staff said they had been informed of the news a few weeks ago however few jobs are expected to be lost, of any, as many of the LNN duties will be moved to the digital format.

Leafs TV was part of the sale of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise sale in 2011 to Bell-Rogers communications (worth $1.32 billion). With that sale, Leafs TV began to become a “redundant” channel focusing mainly on classic games and interviews once Rogers made a 2014 deal to become the dominant NHL network, grabbing the majority of live programming.

“Leafs TV was a big bargaining chip at the time of the (Rogers-Bell sale), but they’ve come to see that (lack of game broadcast presence) doesn’t work,” a source told the Sun.

A statement from MLSE on Tuesday read in part: “With new and increasing opportunities to share content on its digital platforms, subscribers to the Leafs Nation Network were informed earlier this month that the channel would cease being broadcast on Sept. 1. Maple Leafs game day and practice coverage will continue to be shared across the team’s digital platforms, combined with exciting new content on the team’s social and digital channels. The team will continue to produce live Marlies home games with details being shared in the weeks ahead about where those broadcasts will be made available.”

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Stephen A. Smith Says He Wants Mike Francesa on First Take

Russo smiled and chirped back, ““You can’t beat me, you’re never gonna beat him.”

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Stephen A. Smith, Mike Francesa

Stephen A. Smith seems to be looking to debate every major media personality with big opinions and he has set his eyes on Mike Francesa.

Smith was on First Take on Wednesday with weekly guest Chris “Mad Dog” Russo and chastising Russo for being upset with Aaron Rodgers calling out his wide receivers. That’s when Smith brought up the former WFAN tandem of Mike and the Mad Dog.

“The thing that disappoints me about you,” Smith said to Russo, “you’re upset with honesty. You are not only hosting your own radio show, you have your own channel.”

Smith continued, “You are one of the pioneers if not THE pioneer with Mike Francesa, who, by the way, I got to get him on this show one day too, with you. You understand what I’m saying? I mean it would be my honor to have Mike Francesa too.”

Russo smiled and chirped back, ““You can’t beat me, you’re never gonna beat him.”

Smith returned once more with “I ain’t scared. I’m never gonna beat him, but I’ll try, damn it.”

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Stephen A. Smith: ‘I Had To Wait Until My Mother Passed to Write My Book’

“I’ve never ran before, so there was no way I was going to start with this book.”

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An autobiography from Stephen A. Smith is due in stores early next year. Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes is an all-encompassing look at the First Take star’s life from his childhood to today.

Smith appreciates privacy and has been hesitant to talk about his personal life in the past. Occasionally he has made exceptions for shows hosted by friends and people in the business that he respects.

On Wednesday’s episode of First Take, Stephen A. Smith said that was largely due to a promise he made to his mother.

“She told me never to write a book until she passed away, because she knows I’m gonna say what I need to say,” he told Molly Qerim and Chris Russo. “I’m gonna speak my mind and I’m gonna speak my truth. There are things in there that she would not have wanted me to reveal while she was alive.”

He added that writing it made him more uncomfortable than he anticipated.

“There’s a lot in there that I didn’t want to tell, but if you gonna write a book, you gotta tell it.”

Russo joked that clearly Smith is excited. He had texted the New York radio legend the cover and some information about the book earlier in the summer.

Qerim has received some of that material too. She told Smith that what she has seen and read is very impressive.

“This is huge, and I’m proud of you. It’s hard to tell. I know you’ve kept your personal life close to the vest. For you to open up, I think people are going to respect you even more when they learn more about you.”

Stephen A. Smith noted that in addition to his childhood and his professional triumphs, the book will also revisit the controversies that surrounded him at points in his career. He noted the goal of the book was not necessarily to make him look good, but to help people better understand the man they see on TV each morning.

“I’ve never ran before, so there was no way I was going to start with this book,” Smith said.

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