The Ides have it: When a TV sports weekend marches from bizarro to retro, and no Nero to save us
By Tom Hoffarth
Beware the TV sports Ides of March, and this new refined madness amidst a gray and dreary Saturday.
It brings with it a double-edged sword and the need for a extra potent Bloody Mary.
Caesar may ended up with a better deal that the one we’re trying to endure.
Starting a weekend that is on the record as much bizarro as it is retro, perhaps we now have a clearer vision of what social distancing involves. It’s networks excavating programming that happened perhaps within recent memory, and then repackaging it as our antidote to the COVID-19 lock-down knockout punch.
A pandemic virus that shut down all major sports in the United States, prior to a decision by the government that it be declared a national emergency, gave us a heads-up that our weekend’s new normal would be turning our head around to watch what once happened.
Saturday, instead of the momentum building toward college basketball conference championship games on ESPN or Fox or, gasp, FS1, we were looking not-so-live at past Big Ten and Pac 12 title tilts, with more of the norm Sunday AM on CBS.
It’s as if ESPN Classic was being compromised against its will. It’s a classic case of having your pay-tier treasure trove looted in the name of serving the greater good of the bottom-feeders.
Instead of the California state high school basketball championships, Spectrum SportsNet gaslit us with all sorts of rotting veggies and commercials on how to deal with an aging prostate. LeBron James still wasn’t pleased.
CBSSN subbed out basketball for bowling. NBCSN stuck with its auto auctions. If either of them ever showed live XFL – we aren’t sure since we have yet to look in on one of those broadcasts yet – you’d never know they were dire straights.
For the PGA Tour’s Players Championship, NBC had no choice (really?) but to reclaim the 2019 version instead of the 2020 edition. Same with Tennis Channel personnel, locked into the studio in Culver City instead of digging the vibe at Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open. The quick demise of those mini-majors created a major hole in those network’s schedules. Donuts all around.
ESPN2 made the call to fill much of its earl programming Saturday with the multi-part documentary called “Basketball: A Love Story” – not to be confused with the 2000 Spike Lee movie “Love and Basketball” with Omar Epps as the Lakers’ Quncy McCall and Sanaa Lathan as the Sparks’ Monica Wright doing the right thing.
Still, we loved the history lesson from this 20-hour, 2018 Dan Klores production, a so-called rhapsody in hoops, and even went looking for a Kleenex at one point. We ran out, and weren’t about to go to the store to find more.
(By the way: At almost every commercial, there was an ad promoting the June 2 release of the 10-part Michael Jordan bio-documentary, “The Last Dance.” Why not let some of it loose now?)
Not that we wept for the all-sports networks, or sports-heavy networks, who had to scramble late to fill in their time slots and sold advertising.
Not like we cared much that ESPN issued a release earlier that said: “This is an unprecedented situation. We have great relationships with our league partners and are confident we can address all issues constructively going forward. Our immediate focus is on everyone’s safety and well-being.”
Or that Fox said: “Fox Sports’ priority, first and foremost, is the health and safety of everyone. We fully support our league partners and are actively working with them to navigate this evolving and unprecedented situation.”
The UFC still aired, from Brazil, and gave ESPN2 more late afternoon programming. If only Amazon Prime could have streamed it, live from the Amazon, and gave viewers a break on online purchases of Charmin.
Somehow, Santa Anita was still running thoroughbred races on TVG. With no fans. Wanna bet if the horses ran without jockeys, it could have been more of a PG-TV moment considering how we were prepped to saddle up for this viewing otherwise.
From our vantage point, there were suggestions aplenty as to what else could be used as filler for those who felt the bleak, gray day outside wasn’t calling on them to leave their self-deprecation chamber:
Jay Bilas seemed to be campaigning to join the next presidential debate — the one that could lead to him becoming the new leader of the NCAA:
While ESPNEWS was all about airing a marathon of Don Van Natta’s “Backstory,” he was storyboarding something else:
Dodgers play by play man Joe Davis was all about giving — an update from his home, as it involved cooking more meat:
We saw an WNBA legend defer to what her husband-son time as a neighborhood form of entertainment:
We see a local Fox Sports West reporter dealing with what many small businessmen have to tend to. We loved Chris Erskine’s Father’s Day 2019 piece about Patrick and Ryan O’Neal recently. Now this:
We have seen some SportsCenter anchors rise to the occasion:
And now we march up on Sunday, March 15. The Ides have it.
Instead of the tense bracket announcement for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on CBS, the Los Angeles affiliate still has “To Be Announced” on our menu for 3 p.m., followed by an infomercial on how to buy a rare 1924 gold coin.
Then Jim Hill will come on and explain it all. And we’ll have this stabbing pain in our side.