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NCAA BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP : INDIANA 74, SYRACUSE 73 : Musburger Takes It a Bit Too Seriously

March 31, 1987|LARRY STEWART

CBS, going up against the Academy Awards on ABC Monday night, got what it needed--an exciting NCAA championship game.

What CBS didn't need was Brent Musburger and his overbearing antics.

You wanted to say, forget the dramatics, the editorials and the staccato delivery. Just be yourself, Brent, and call the game in your normal voice. Talk in complete sentences.

But, no, this was a big game. And Brent being Brent, he wanted to make sure everyone knew it.

"A big story is developing here at the Superdome," he told the viewers before the game was even a minute old. "They have big TV screens behind the baskets that surely will distract the free-throw shooters. They'll be looking at themselves."

Commentator Billy Packer immediately shot down that big story, saying: "Good free-throw shooters block everything out."

And Packer was right. The TV screens were not a factor.

When Syracuse's Rony Seikaly missed his first shot, Musburger said: "Write it down! Seikaly did not jam it down."

We didn't write it down.

A minute later, Musburger was trying to make a big deal over the amount of protection Indiana's Rick Calloway was wearing on his bum knee.

But then Musburger was trying to make a big deal out of a lot of things.

What Musburger should have been doing was passing off to Packer, who knows the game so well and capably annunciates that knowledge. Dick Enberg surely would have shared the microphone more.

But this was the Brent Musburger Show. He came across as unwilling to share spotlight.

Even when he did ask a question of Packer, he included himself. "Take me back to Indiana's two other national championship games, Billy," he said late in the game.

Musburger also tried to be clever--and failed. For example, about Syracuse's Sherman Douglas, he said: "He's not just a penetrator, he's a creator."

And then there was the editorializing. Did you catch Musburger giving advice to Syracuse freshman Derrick Coleman?

He urged him to stay away from "flesh-peddlers," Musburger's term for sports agents, and finish his education before turning pro.

Surely, legitimate sports agents didn't appreciate Musburger's tag. Also, the editorial didn't fit in with the play by play, whether it was good advice or not.

Then, a little later, he felt obligated to gush about outgoing NCAA executive director Walter Byers and the "tremendous job he has done."

OK, if you say so, Brent.

Again, it was something that didn't fit.

Neither did CBS's attempt at journalism during halftime. The network tried to deal with all the problems that plague college athletics during a halftime segment.

One thing the piece did was give Neal Pilson, CBS Sports president, a chance to defend television's role in the mess. "The money television gives to the schools is not the problem," Pilson said. "It's what the schools chose to do with it."

It was a little self-serving, to say the least.

Bobby Knight's contribution to the feature included a couple of noteworthy quotes.

"Make me President, and I'd drug test everyone," he said.

And: "I want my kids to say playing basketball is the most educationally beneficial thing they did (at Indiana). If they say Chemistry 401 is, then I want to know what that guy is teaching."

Overall, CBS's telecast was solid. The camera work was kept simple, and nothing was missed.

And the wrap-up piece at the end added a nice touch.

The only problem was Musburger, the $1.8-million sportscaster, who kept adding his two cents worth.

Musburger is hard to figure. One time he'll low-key it, the next time he's overly dramatic.

What he should try, for a change, is just being himself.

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