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College Basketball Needs The Tournament For America To Care

“The name ‘Big Dance’ is almost a misnomer. Gigantic Dance. Tremendous Dance might be a better name for it.”

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The NCAA Tournament’s growth in the last 10 years is having a minimizing impact on the games that precede it. While the tournament brings in an audience of hoop fans, casual observers, hard-core gamblers, and the random office pool participants, everything prior lacks buzz.  The disparity is more clear in college hoops than any other major American team sport.

One online gambling source (who declined to be identified) said the Big Dance draws in more money in gambling than the Super Bowl.  Only a Presidential Election drew more action than March Madness.  Still, that source also said that no regular-season game or conference tourney draws anything more (and usually significantly less) than a regular-season NBA game.

 “The ecosystem around March Madness is what makes it so special, and so appealing to casual fans, many of whom pay scant attention to the regular college hoops season,“ said Tom Richardson, SVP of Strategy at Mercury Intermedia & digital media professor in Columbia University’s Sports Management Graduate Program.

The ratings are difficult to pin down as streaming is also impacting live sports viewership. Rather than dispute linear television with cord-cutters, I used my contacts in online gambling as a more proper gauge.

The impact of gambling on the tournament can be traced back to the proliferation of smartphones. Even before it was legal, having a pocket computer on your living room couch only enhanced the viewing experience. The only difference between the NFL and the Big Dance is that viewership soared during the regular season for pro football. But college basketball games in January and February with big implications were tiny compared to September and October football games – both college and pro.

There are still basketball-heavy markets, but the country just wants to see the Big Dance.

Raleigh talk show host Joe Ovies has a distinctly different perspective than I do.  I live in New Jersey, not a hotbed of college hoops like North Carolina.

“That’s kind of how it’s become in college basketball in that top-level stars kind of dissipate over time,” Ovies said. “You aren’t going to have a Zion Williamson dominating the conversation anymore. It’s kind of going to that place.”

A lack of stars impacts regular season viewing. March Madness will be trending with or without them.

This is why this week marking the one-year anniversary of the Covid-19 lockdown impacted college basketball more than any other sport. 

After the NBA suspended its’ season, the NCAA was in the midst of conference tourneys.  Some canceled right away. (I will never forget ESPN’s Jay Bilas screaming that the ACC should call it while players were shooting around behind him). Others, within a day.  (The Big East played a half of one game before stopping.) Then, the shocking, sudden announcement that the NCAA Tournament for 2020 was called off, due to this then-new pandemic.

ESPN’s Scott Van Belt told Barrett Sports Media in March 2020 that, “nothing will ever take the sting away from not getting to play this tournament. Nothing.”

The NBA and NHL returned months later with unique “bubble” playoff formats in Orlando and Canada respectively.  Major League Baseball did pull off a 60-game “hodgepodge” season complete with Covid outbreaks and more fighting between players and owners.  The NFL was defiant.  In May, the league put out a schedule saying they would start on time, and despite some fancy schedule maneuvering, they played a complete season.

College basketball had none of that. The most bet-on sporting event was shut down.  Teams did not return until the next season.  This season has featured many cancelations and many games with no fans.  Still, that is just a fraction of the revenue.  The Tournament is on, and no sport needs it more than college hoops.

“The bracket challenges, the betting, the games during the day, the unpredictability… All that makes it a hugely popular and important event on the American sports calendar,” said Richardson. “And the timing is such is that it’s always a very welcome reminder that winter is over, and spring is almost here.”

The name “Big Dance” is almost a misnomer.  Gigantic Dance.  Tremendous Dance might be a better name for it.

UVA Wins 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship | UVA Today

Reading this column may remind someone to check in on their office pool, or online friends’ bracket challenges.

It’s the first time in two full calendar years, March of 2019, since Virginia beat Texas Tech in OT in Minneapolis.  Seems like a lifetime ago.

BSM Writers

Don’t Make Assumptions to Fit Your Sports Opinions

Curiosity leads to asking questions instead of making assumptions.

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I also thought San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel was white.

Maybe “assumed” is the better term, given the saying of what that does to you and me.

But I — like this guy Sean Beckwith — saw those videos from McDaniel’s press conference last week on Twitter. I legit thought it was a comedy bit at first. When I realized he was, in fact, the offensive coordinator, I thought it made sense that the NFL’s first flat-brimmer of a head coach would have a super-chill OC who sounded like a dude accustomed to microwaving burritos at 3 a.m.

I also learned McDaniel was childhood friends with Dan Soder, a comedian whom I enjoy on Billions. I was informed by people who know better than me that McDaniel is a well-regarded young coach in the league and that’s about where my opinions on the phenomenon of Mike McDaniel stopped.

If only Sean Beckwith had done the same, he might have avoided a major embarrassment. He might still have a Twitter account. Instead, he took even less information than I had, shook vigorously, and poured it out into a story published on Deadspin that warned McDaniel was about to become the next white guy to jump the line.

Except McDaniel is not white. Yeah. This fact is painfully embarrassing for the author, the website that published it, the people who own that website, and just about everyone concerned with equity in the hiring practices of NFL coaches.

I’ll include myself in that latter category, and I’ve cringed at how this story has been used as an example of the problems that come with including race in the discussion of sports, though. This is actually an example of the problems with including race in the discussion of sports when your head is firmly wedged in your hindparts as Beckwith’s seems to have been.

That was the real issue here, and while mislabeling McDaniel as white is an inexcusable and unconscionable mistake, it wasn’t the only problem with this particular story. Brandon Staley was included as one of the young white men hired to be a head coach because of his offensive pedigree. Staley is a defensive coach. Matt Rhule was cited as an example of a young white man hired to be a head coach because of his offensive pedigree. Rhule is not particularly young and as a former college head coach at Temple and Baylor, he certainly doesn’t fit the hiring pattern Beckwith was describing.

The problem at the root of Beckwith’s approach was that he wrote that story with a confidence both unearned and unwarranted, and while it’s easy to write him off for being unbelievably careless, it should give anyone who talks or writes about sports for a living a moment’s pause to consider the number of assumptions that are made in formulating content.

Here, in no particular order, is a list of things I try not to assume:

1. Whether a woman is — in fact — pregnant. A friend of mine said her rule was that she wouldn’t mention pregnancy until she actually saw evidence of the baby, at which point the question of pregnancy would actually be moot.

2. Someone’s mental health. But I covered that earlier this year with regard to Antonio Brown, who — by the way — said to Bryant Gumbel this week that he has “mental wealth.”

Race should probably be on this list, too, but it’s usually not. Most of us go off what we see, and I include myself in that category. Like I said, I thought McDaniel was white, and I initially didn’t realize David Culley was Black when the Texans announced him as their next head coach. Of course, I didn’t go out and formulate a story based on my assumptions, but like I said, Beckwith’s error provided a reminder of the dangers in just assuming what I think is true.

Now, I’m not recommending that we go and ask each and every person we talk about to fill out a census form. I am stating that we should be very careful about taking what we see — or what we think we see — and then cramming it with both hands into a storyline that we’ve heard or even one we believe. Each person we talk about has their own unique story, their own personal background, and the more we assume to know about that without actually having done the research, the more liable we are to make a career-changing mistake like this one.

Be curious. The character Ted Lasso said that in one of the better scenes from the first season of that show, though I’m somewhat reluctant to mention it for fear I’ll come off like one of those fans of this particular show who I’ve found just will not shut up about it. (For the record: I liked the show. Thoroughly enjoyed the first season. Haven’t watched the second season and somehow I’m doing just fine, thanks.)

Curiosity leads to asking questions instead of making assumptions. Curiosity might lead you to look up more about the coach in particular or hiring trends in general. Curiosity is what keeps us searching for a more complete understanding of the sports figures we’re writing about and the trends we’re discussing instead of adopting a smarmy tone of the know-it-all, which is especially dangerous if you’re not even a know-it-some.

In this case, being curious might have led Beckwith to search for more about McDaniel and find the story from Matt Maiocco — a great reporter for NBC Sports Bay Area — in which McDaniel discussed his background. Being curious would have led Beckwith to find out who Andrew Hawkins is instead of using ignorance of the former NFL wide receiver to dismiss his praise of McDaniel’s coaching acumen as an example of Internet groupthink.

Now, I’m not sure if being curious would have kept Beckwith from believing he had a better handle than Hawkins on how race might impact the promotion and hiring of NFL coaches. Curiosity almost certainly wouldn’t have prevented Beckwith from snidely referencing the quote regarding racial justice that is in Hawkins’s Twitter profile.

But that gets back to the root of the problem in Beckwith’s column, which is the confidence with which he presided over a subject of which he was regrettably ignorant.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 59: Paul Finebaum

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How much Alabama can we pack into one podcast? Demetri Ravanos talks to Paul Finebaum about Finebaum’s rise in radio, how he feels about his callers being used for content by other hosts, and college football’s year-round spot in the national sports conversation.

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BSM Writers

10 Ways to Make Sales Work From Home Productive

Create a home workspace that is pure business. Post quotes and keep track of your sales. Let this be your workplace and concentration zone.

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Do you need the energy of others around you to work harder or smarter? Are you the type who struggles to contribute to Zoom meetings? Do you lose focus quickly? Then maybe you need a check=up from the neck up about how you work from home.

For me, the challenges of working from home mainly stem from interruptions from pets, spouses, delivery people, and home chores. I need more discipline to stay on track to hit sales goals and not get distracted.

Here are 10 ideas for radio sellers adapted from Dan Disney of LinkedIn fame.

1. To-Do List

You need a plan for your day, just as you would at work. But building in some household chores would be wise. Remember, you are trading in the morning rush out the door and afternoon drive home for a walk to your computer and then to the TV at the end of the day.

For most of us, that’s at least an hour a day saved by staying home. Spend it as you wish but make sure you schedule it outside your prime selling hours.

2. Stay in Touch

This shouldn’t be hard for most of us with a corporate CRM tracking our moves. But don’t forget to plan social time with people from work who you enjoy.

3. Be Self-Employed

We are who we are when nobody is watching. This is your opportunity to have your own business and work independently. A promotion from work could be next if you conquer this stage.

4. Take a Break

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You took them when you were AT work, so why change? Don’t forget the internet surfing you did, the errands you ran, and the time you wasted hearing about your workmate’s problems. Try to make those breaks more productive by cleaning, paying bills, or playing with the dog. It’s good for your mental health.

5. Get Help

If you need help keeping things quiet for client calls, negotiate with anybody you have at home to help you. If you live alone and have a pet who interrupts things, consider taking your dog to daycare once a week so you can schedule your calls on that day and help guarantee you won’t be distracted.

6. Create an Office

Create a home workspace that is pure business. Post quotes and keep track of your sales. Let this be your workplace and concentration zone. If you pick up a paper, book, or report, don’t put it down in any other place but where it belongs! Please keep it clean each day you are done and all business.

7. Let Your Hair Down

If you have a good client who you have known for a long time but has never been to your home, here is your chance. Show ’em around! Take a Zoom call on the phone and show them your backyard, BBQ, or home theatre room. Let your dog bark at them or have your partner say hello.

8. Take Rewards

You are home and it will be easier than ever to achieve some personal goals by focusing on some self-care. Eat better. Exercise more. Be calmer. Maybe even consider the gas you are not buying as savings for a big night out.

9. Be Positive

Let positive quotes, blogging, and motivating YouTube hits be your distractions. You need positive reinforcement and will have to work at getting some.

10. Train

Study Zoom, social media, and other forms of prospecting. Dig into this new reality and see if you can make it work for you AT HOME.

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