One of the real plagues of college basketball, the one that repeatedly hit me over the head with the subtlety of a socket wrench this past weekend and will hit viewers as they watch conference tournaments in the run-up to the coming Madness, is the frequency of timeouts that interrupt the flow of each televised game.
The … stoppages … are … relentless … and … ridiculous … and … they … ruin … not … only … the … game’s … flow … but … its … overall … entertainment … value.
For anybody bored enough to count, that’s a potential total of 18 timeouts during games, of varying lengths, most of which occur during the final minutes, stopping and chopping the conclusion of games into tiny bits and pieces of action with long breaks in-between.
What’s happening on the court might be compelling and riveting, it could be a one-point game with the end right around the corner, but then a seemingly never-ending parade of advertising spots erupts for beer, cars, athletic gear, deodorant, financial advice, burgers and tacos, more beer, tires, shaving blades, feminine hygiene products, and more beer.
The end of games is particularly crammed with breaks because coaches almost always save their allotted timeouts for that last stretch when they stop play after every made basket, after every set of free throws, after every possible possession, as a means of controlling the action the unfortunate way they love to do.
Check out how long it takes to play, say, the last four minutes of a college game. We’ve all seen those minutes pulled into the better part of a half-hour.
It’s downright unnatural. It’s not the way basketball was meant to be played. But it won’t matter because it won’t change. Coaches like and take their opportunity to grab a game by the throat at the end and throttle it about, as opposed to letting smart, well-taught players decide the thing in a game’s normal course.
Moreover, networks want their money, advertisers want their time to push product, and so … the real competitive side of basketball suffers.
In TV games, there are media timeouts at the first dead-ball situation after the 16-, 12-, 8- and 4-minute marks of each half. In addition, each team gets a total of five timeouts, allowing for a maximum of four each in the second half. Those potential 18 breaks in the action combined lead to the maddening slicing and dicing of games, to the point not only where viewers get impatient with so many interruptions, but the game’s true character is compromised.
This is where I should insert an ad for a DVR.
In a better basketball world, timeouts would be reduced and players would be enabled to finish games without lectures from their coaches at every turn. And viewers, who just want to enjoy a little live college ball, wouldn’t have commercial images hammered into their heads with a thousand swings of a socket wrench.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Gordon Monson Show” weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.