Truly a classic men’s college championship basketball game in Indianapolis Monday night with top-seed Duke hanging on to beat five-seed Butler, 61-59. Came down to the final second as Butler’s Gordon Hayward’s half-court heave for the win bounced off the rim. Oh, so close!
Ratings for this Final Four, and the entire tournament in general, were the highest in five years easily topping last year’s Final Four which saw North Carolina beat Michigan State in Detroit for the championship. Why? Plenty of upsets by underdogs over favorites like Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse making the tournament wide open.
According to the blog Sports Media Watch, Monday’s game was up 31% in ratings and 36% in viewership (24 million to last year’s 18 million)from last year. SMW goes on to say Butler/Duke drew a higher rating than every Major League Baseball game since ‘04 and every NBA game since ‘02. Excluding the NFL and the Olympics mind you, the game ranks as the third-most viewed sports telecast of 2010, behind only the BCS National Championship Game between Alabama and Texas and the Rose Bowl game between Ohio State and Oregon.
The game interest obviously had plenty to do with Mid-Major Butler. Certainly not a Cinderella when you consider entering the title game, the Horizon League Champion Bulldogs were riding a 25-game winning streak and had resided in the national top 25 for most of the year. Butler was certainly the underdog against mighty ACC Champion Duke and justifiably so considering the tradition of Blue Devils Basketball in the Atlantic Coast Conference under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
What the ratings and viewership numbers for this game tell me is, to be cliché, America always roots for the underdog. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It helps that Butler’s campus is less than eight miles away from this year’s Final Four site, Lucas Oil Stadium. You can’t script this but, also, the Bulldogs home-gym is Hinkle Fieldhouse, the gym where the state high school championship game in the move “Hoosiers” was filmed. OH, COME ON! How fun is that!
So, for the life of me, I don’t understand why some sports radio hosts believed if Butler were to win the national championship, it would set the game back 50 years and that having a mid-major like Butler just playing in the title game would sound the death knell for CBS and its ratings.
I take it back. I know why these guys would publicize this. For exactly that. Publicity. So, here you go guys.
ESPN radio’s Colin Cowherd, host of the show The Herd, and, also, co-host of ESPN TV’s Sports Nation, said Butler winning the national title was bad for men’s college basketball and would set it back 50 years.
Meanwhile, FOX Sports Radio host and FOX Sports Nets Rumors Reporter, Ben Maller, said if Butler made it to the title game, ratings would be at an all time low for CBS. Now, I’m not bashing Big Ben because he’s my boy. We both have worked together on radio and TV and we’re pals. But, COME ON, BEN! Turns out my buddy was, obviously, wrong.
For Cowherd, it’s inconceivable to believe Butler winning the national title would be bad for college basketball. Of course, the Bulldogs came up just short in their quest. But, they proved they belonged with the big boys extending Duke to the final second.
For Cowherd to say Butler winning the national title would be bad for college basketball is similar to saying Texas-Western beating Kentucky for the 1966 national Championship with TW coach Don Haskins starting five African-American players, for the first time in the history of the game, against Adolph Rupp’s Wildcats was bad for the game. Haskins’ starting those five African-American players was exactly what the game needed at that particular time in our history.
Butler’s performance the other night against Duke is exactly what the game needed at this particular time in the sports history. It says those mid-major programs belong with the so-called “Big Six” programs. That alone peaks the interest of the vast majority of American Society who want to see the underdog have his day against the big boy.
Hence the big television numbers, Big Ben!
Congratulations to the Butler Bulldogs for showing the mid-majors belong and playing a terrific game. Much congratulations to Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils for another national title and playing a terrific game. Thanks to both schools for putting on a tremendous show for us to enjoy.