The road to Selection Sunday
Hoops bracket show has become a major TV event
Posted: Friday March 9, 2007 12:39PM; Updated: Friday March 9, 2007 2:13PM
If the person or persons who coined the phrase "Selection Sunday" happen to be reading this column, please contact SI.com immediately. I'd like to send you something nice from the gift closet (an autographed photo of Seth Davis?) for birthing such an alliterative title. As best as I can find, the phrase dates back to 1985 when Chicago Tribune writers Skip Myslenski and Linda Kay used it in a college basketball column two days after the tournament draw was announced. "Some lucky teams are granted this home-court luxury every year on Selection Sunday," wrote the Tribune reporters, referring to those fortunate souls playing opening round games in their campus gyms.
CBS first aired a 45-minute selection show in 1982 (The Road to New Orleans, hosted by Brent Musberger and Billy Packer) after taking over the college basketball package from NBC, which never aired the pairings live. It has since morphed into destination viewing (it expanded to 60 minutes in 2002) and created one of the more unique jobs in our economy: television brackatologist.
"When CBS first gained rights to this tournament, there was no such thing as a Selection Show," said CBS's Jim Nantz, who will team up with Packer to analyze the brackets and question NCAA committee chairman Gary Walters. "Now it's a show that will generate a bigger rating than any NBA game until they get to the NBA Finals."
Last year, the selection show drew a 4.6 national rating, a huge number for a non-live sporting event. (Of course it should be noted that Fox's coverage of the Nextel Cup race in Las Vegas won the timeslot last year, prompting the cheeky Fox communications staff to issue a press release with the headline: NASCAR on FOX Slam Dunks NCAA Selection Show). Part of this year's fun will be the navel-gazing across the Internet on how Nantz and Packer handle their interview with Walters after they grilled and charbroiled committee chair Craig Littlepage last year over the inclusion of plucky George Mason and the number of Missouri Valley conference teams. One wonders if the Up Yours Billy Packer blog, idle since last year, is about to arise from its slumber.
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