Controversial call was a boon to Duke and CBS

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A controversial call against Baylor's Quincy Acy in A controversial call against Baylor's Quincy Acy in Sunday's regional final against Duke may have helped save CBS from ratings hell in the Final Four. Photo Credit: MCT

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.

The instantly infamous, game-turning charge call on Baylor's Quincy Acy in Sunday's South Regional final gave Duke/NCAA/CBS conspiracy theorists yet another round of ammunition.

But whether such things happen to the Blue Devils on purpose or by accident, the facts are they were good enough to take advantage, and by doing so, they saved the 2010 Final Four as a TV attraction.

Sure, Butler is a fantastic story, Michigan State is a Final Four perennial and West Virginia is the Big East champion. Face it, though:

If Baylor had won (and even more so if Tennessee had beaten Michigan State), this column would be about CBS peering over a ratings cliff entering what could be its final Final Four.

Instead, the national semifinals are a blend of pedigree and pugnacity, of the lordly and lovable, of brand names and no-names.

Duke is the key, of course, thanks to its status as college hoops' version of the Yankees or Cowboys - a team some love to love and many love to hate.

Hence the years-old drumbeat of suspicion that it gets breaks when it comes to seeding, scheduling and officiating.

The NCAA and CBS deny such things, obviously, but CBS never has denied big-name programs are nice to have around. Especially Duke.

"Duke does manage to generate pretty strong emotions, both positively and negative, and that normally translates into better television ratings,'' said CBS Sports present Sean McManus, a 1977 Duke graduate.

But McManus insisted the close games and story lines - including Butler's - this year trumped the importance of No. 1 seeds at the finish line. As long as the games are good, he said, "We'll do perfectly fine.''

 

MLB Network is booming

MLB Network enjoyed a promising rookie season by focusing on its thorough studio show and vast baseball library.

But nothing beats live events, and to kick off Year Two, the network is significantly increasing its game offerings.

Last April, it showed games only on Thursdays. This April, it's 30 games in 30 days showcasing 30 teams, starting next Tuesday with Yankees-Red Sox, featuring Bob Costas and the debut of John Smoltz.

The catch is games are blacked out in the markets of the teams involved. Four include the Yankees and one includes the Mets. That still leaves 25.

 

Prokhorov is a character

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If you did not see the "60 Minutes'' segment on future Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov Sunday, go to CBSNews.com and watch it now.

By the end of his instant classic American TV coming-out party, the amusing oligarch surely had many middle-aged male sports fans wishing they were him - or at least his best friend.

"For me, life, and business in particular, is a big game,'' said Prokhorov, 44, who works out two hours a day, does not use a computer, has a yacht but doesn't know where it is, and intends to turn the Nets into the best team in the NBA.

Oh, and he enjoys good food and attractive females.

"Frankly speaking, I like women,'' he said. "In my heart, I am still a teenager and I am very open and I don't want to hide this.''

Regarding an incident in which the French detained him on suspicion of promoting prostitution - and which indirectly led to his current riches - Steve Kroft read an old quote of his back to him:

"The French elite is envious because they're lagging behind in fashion, in life and in sex drive.''

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Prokhorov's response to Kroft: "That's true.''

 

Sound bites

CBS' coverage of the Final Four will include highlights of an interview and a game of H-O-R-S-E Clark Kellogg will conduct with Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday . . . "Joe Buck Live'' is no more after three episodes. Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports, issued a statement praising Buck but said, "We have made the decision not to continue his talk show.'' My vote to replace it on the HBO schedule: "Artie Lange Live."

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