Do you love March Madness but think coverage of the NCAA college basketball tournament is lacking commentary from an often annoying, sometimes insightful and overly ubiquitous Boston sports fan who isn’t especially associated with college basketball? Well, now you’re in luck. Bill Simmons has finally found a way to insinuate himself into March Madness. Well, sort of.
As first reported on All Things D, in an effort to get around the little fact that Simmons’ employer ESPN doesn’t have the rights to a single tournament game, the possibly ingenious/possibly stupid plan is for Simmons to broadcast commentary in between games from a link on ESPN’s/Simmons’ website Grantland.
According to All Things D’s Peter Kafka ”The idea isn’t to compete with the games themselves, but to offer up pre- and post-game commentary at preset times, along with the option of breaking in live if something merits a pop-in.”
It seems to me that this whole weird situation is a reaction to the fractured state of college basketball coverage. For nationally televised games during the regular season, ESPN pretty much dominates. Then tournament time rolls around and CBS (and since a couple years ago CBS/Turner) takes over because ESPN wasn’t able to swing rights to the tournament. (ESPN gets the pathetic consolation prize of the NIT.)
ESPN has probably been trying to figure out a way to attach itself to the tournament somehow for awhile but this still doesn’t feel like the right workaround. Simmons does NBA stuff for ESPN during basketball season, not NCAA, so it’s not like college basketball fans who are used to ESPN’s coverage are missing him during the tournament.
And the broadcast he’s doing from the YouTube link will have a lot of similarities to his NBA work for ESPN, since ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose will be involved as well as “other characters from his Grantland universe” (ugh) including writer Rembert Browne.
So if you want to listen to these folks talk college hoops before during and after the March Madness games going on today and tomorrow, just point your browser here.