Cingularly Uninteresting

Cingular Wireless has been running a promotion during this year's March Madness tournament that lets viewers choose the greatest NCAA men's basketball championship game of all time. CBS Sports' basketball analysts whittled the selections down to the top four games, from which viewers could choose a winner by sending a text message to Cingular. The Final Four were:

1982: UNC 63 - Georgetown 62

1983: NC State 54 - Houston 52

1985: Villanova 66 - Georgetown 64

1987: Indiana 74 - Syracuse 73

Do you mean to tell me that all of the best March Madness championship games are from the '80s? That has got to be worrisome for both the NCAA and CBS, who rely on the tournament to be extremely lucrative for all concerned stakeholders.

So why is that the case?

First of all, obviously these are purely subjective selections by the CBS committee, so that should be taken into account. But that alone cannot explain why all four of the finalists are from the '80s, can it? Second, we have to note the increasing number of underclassmen that have left college early for the pros and the high schoolers that never made it there — certainly this has had an impact on the overall quality of talent in the championship games of the past fifteen years. Or maybe Cingular wanted games from the '80s so that they could sell phones to the 30-45 year old demographic.

But is it also possible that the reason no game after 1987 made the final list is because television is starting to become obsolete?

I mean, looking simply at the scores, what about the Michigan beating Seton Hall in overtime in 1989? Arizona-Kentucky in 1997 also went to overtime before the West Coast 'Cats prevailed. And UConn over Duke in 1999 was a pretty good game as well.

The majority of people who are voting consumed those games via television, though. And in the videogame-Internet-fantasy sports age, television is starting to lose its psychic relevance for the fans at home. As a result, what perhaps was objectively just as "exciting" of a championship game post-1987 might not have been decoded that way by those who have followed the tournament over the past twenty years.

If that is so, then why do so many people still watch March Madness on TV? The answer is simple: The Bracket.

It is the meta-game on top of the tournament games that keeps us interested in the Age of Information.


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