Charles Barkley vs. Billy Packer [video]

A few weeks ago, longtime NCAA Tournament announcer Billy Packer sounded off about the plans by CBS to cover the 2011 tournament on four networks: CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV.

ESPN would be better, he says, partly because it has announcers doing college games all season. He likens using NBA announcers to when he used to turn down requests to work NBA action by saying, ” ‘I’m not qualified, it’s a different sport.’ ” This, he says, is like CBS’ Verne Lundquist calling SEC football all year “and then having somebody who just did the pros come in to call the SEC title game.”

But with CBS’ old regionalized coverage now gone, isn’t it good for viewers who want to see a specific NCAA game to not have to worry about missing it because they’re in the wrong local TV market? “What percentage of the total audience does that represent,” says Packer. “Has all this been changed for the .01% of viewers who really want a specific game?”

And viewers, warns Packer, will miss the old system of being switched to the hottest action. Recalling working regional sites where “none of the games were really good,” he says the old way “enabled the product to never have to show them (widely) by going to exciting buzzer-beaters instead.”

One of those “NBA announcers” Packer refers to is Charles Barkley, who didn’t take the criticism very well:

I’m picturing Packer sitting on his porch in an 80s-era jogging suit, nursing a watered down iced tea and every so often yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. He was grumpy 10 years ago, can you imagine how grumpy he is now?

I don’t know if CBS plans to bounce around to the best action on the main CBS feed, but I like the fact that I can switch to any of the four games on the four different channels, so I guess I’m in Packer’s .01% of viewers who want to be able to watch whichever game they want. I’m not exactly sure where he got that number — it sounds like he pulled it out of someplace very, very dark — but clearly the guy is old school, so he’s used to the days when a program director decided which game the audience would see instead of giving the audience that choice.

I would like to see CBS start with a game but then go to better action if the game gets out of hand. This would appease those viewers who don’t want to flip around on their own, while the rest of us would still have the option of watching whichever game we wanted.

As for Charles Barkley providing commentary for NCAA action — I don’t have a problem with it. Sure, he’s not going to be as educated as a Seth Davis or Clark Kellogg, but those guys will be providing their own commentary as well. Barkley is nothing if not entertaining, and he can bring a ton of levity to what otherwise has been a pretty humorless production.

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