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16 Madness To the Max
Oh, so many reasons to embrace March Madness: The logic-shattering upsets, the Oscar-worthy story lines, the bracket-induced roller coaster of emotions. But it's the anyone-can-emerge-a-hero ethos that truly activates the dopamine of the sports fan's brain. With every game's potential to make history, how was it, then, that for so many years game-viewing options were left to the whims of local programmers? How was one ever to witness a 14- versus 3-seed upset if that game went unaired, fourth on the TV totem pole of a given market?
This past spring, that problem was put to rest as the entirety of Everyman's favorite postseason was made available to every fan. Thanks to a 14-year pact between Turner and CBS Sports, all 67 men's games were made accessible, for the first time in the tournament's 73-year history, via CBS, TNT, truTV and TBS. Anyone with a reliable trigger finger could catch up with concurrent games, with tip-offs staggered in 30-minute intervals. No TV? No problem. The digital-savvy consumed the same action on laptops, tablets and smartphones using a new March Madness On Demand app, Wi-Fi and 3G gods be good.
Consider: Had the deal not been struck, one might not have been offered the choice between Kenneth Faried's last-second block, which sent 13th-seeded Morehead State past No. 4 Louisville, and Butler forward Matt Howard's game-winning tip-in against Old Dominion. One might have watched the implausible meeting, in the Sweet 16, of VCU and Florida State, or Kentucky's dramatic upset of overall No. 1 Ohio State. But not both.
In the end, everyone won: The opening Thursday brought the highest tournament ratings in 20 years. At last the networks have ensured that on college sports' grandest stage even the smallest of Big Dancers gets a spotlight.