CBS decision to switch away from Kansas-Missouri game a bad call

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011; 1:22 AM

It wasn't the Heidi Game, but it was close.

in 1968, NBC switched away from a pro football game between the Raiders and the Jets - with the Jets leading - to show the children's movie "Heidi." The Raiders scored two touchdowns and won, 43-32, while Grandfather was blathering about hating the village, or whatever. I was an 8-year-old girl with three grandfathers I loved very much - in other words, the movie's target demographic - and even I wouldn't have flipped that switch.

Saturday, CBS suddenly switched away from the Kansas-Missouri game with a little more than three minutes remaining - to show the beginning of Michigan vs. Michigan State or Oregon vs. Arizona, depending on the region. The network never switched back, and I missed KU's eventual 70-66 victory and its seventh straight Big 12 regular season title.

Why? Sunspots are the culprit, said CBS. The sunspots refused to comment but immediately scheduled interviews with "Nightline," "The View" and "Oprah" to tell their side of the story, and Charlie Sheen issued a statement saying the sunspots are actually a product of mixing tiger's blood and Adonis DNA.

I realize I have a dog in this hunt, being a KU alum, but I think any college basketball fan will agree that the last three minutes of pretty much any game are more important than the first three minutes of pretty much any game. When the killer sunspots attacked, the game was not decided. Having a nine-point lead with a little more than three minutes remaining is not the same thing as winning, especially when you're talking about the No. 2 and No. 22 teams in the country who hate each other with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. Or sunspots.

Oddly, while much of the country lost the game, stations in Topeka and Wichita, Kan., didn't. The St. Louis affiliate lost it, but got it back. Columbia and Springfield, Mo., were not as lucky - and neither was Kansas City, on both sides of the river. That's what makes the sunspots story suspect - the rather random nature of their impact.

Ironically, the shared outrage on both sides of the border marks the first time Missouri and Kansas fans have agreed on anything since . . . since . . . It's the first time Missouri and Kansas fans have agreed on anything, period.

This would be a lot less enraging if we weren't heading into a three-week period in which most TVs in America will be tuned to CBS, which with Turner Sports is just beginning a new $11 billion, 14-year deal to televise the NCAA tournament. The partnership is supposed to guarantee that every single tournament game will be shown, in its entirety. Forgive me if I'm skeptical.

Technical difficulties happen. I get that. Say they really did lose a satellite feed. How about telling the viewers and then giving updates from the game, at the very least? The network did put the score of the KU-Mizzou game on a crawl, for a while, but the last I saw was with 28 seconds remaining and Missouri down by 7. After that, instead of game updates, we got to see graphics like this one: "Team Colors - Michigan yellow, Michigan State green."

Thanks, CBS!

Finally I switched to ESPN, where I knew I'd find the final score on a crawl and eventually some highlights as well. And this is the problem: As much as I hate to see the World Wide Leader gobble up every sporting event under the sun, the truth is, the ESPNs do a better job of broadcasting pretty much everything than pretty much every other network.

So CBS, you have 14 years to develop anti-sunspot technology. Maybe you can use Charlie Sheen as a shield?


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