News Column

Final Four Coverage Eyed at CBS

April 5, 2013

Whether you'll watch the NCAA men's basketball Final Four on a mobile app or giant flat-screen TV, Mark Wolff and Bob Fishman will literally decide how you see it, drawing on their experience in sports television since the 1970s.

Wolff, as CBS' producer, and Fishman, the director, will sit in a production truck in the bowels of Atlanta's Georgia Dome staring at a wall of TV screens with feeds from 16 to 17 cameras -- up from the seven to eight cameras during regular-season action. That will include robotic cameras on cables above the court and ones on top of backboards.

Still, Fishman says, the coverage won't be able to get every shot he'd like to see. "I'd like to strap a (tiny) camera to a player's head and an official's head," Fishman, sounding semi-serious, tells USA TODAY Sports. "That would be tremendous. That's a direction we'd like to pursue."

CBS, of course, would need permission for anything like that to happen. But in some areas, the power of the CBS production team can be absolute -- which was on display when Louisville's Kevin Ware suffered the traumatic leg injury in Sunday's regional final victory against Duke.

Wolff and Fishman, working that game, replayed the injury twice -- with neither shot being a close-up. Fishman says "there was no debate" about showing any more replays. "I can't imagine anybody thinking that wasn't the right thing to do. Even if we had a close-up with a particularly gory angle, we wouldn't put it up."

Did CBS have a gory angle? "No," he says. "But there was another angle that is more explicit. ... But I haven't seen it and don't want to ever see it."

How CBS will handle Ware in Louisville's game against Wichita State on Saturday is the big TV question going into Final Four coverage. CBS will have a pregame feature that will include a taped interview with Ware. Wolff says he spoke with Ware on Thursday but couldn't game-plan how significant Ware would be in the coverage without knowing where he'll be sitting or whether he would be willing to go on-air.

"We're going to talk to the school to see what we can do with him on the pregame or the game coverage," says Wolff, the Final Four lead producer for the first time, replacing Bob Dekas. (Fishman is working his 31st.) "But he didn't shed any light to me on what his plans are."

But Ware's potential presence is only one variable in the coverage. When it comes to getting mikes in team huddles, Wolff says, it's done on a "team-by-team, coach-by-coach basis, where you have to build trust" that coaches and their teams won't be embarrassed by anything picked up by such eavesdropping.

In getting cameras in locker rooms for pregame or halftime, Wolff says Michigan and Wichita State are willing to allow it: "But we're always in negotiation. You know TV people -- we're a pushy sort."

Fox-ESPN rivalry: Fox's MLB coverage, starting Saturday, is in a transition season: Lead analyst TimMcCarver is in his final year, reporter Erin Andrews will get an expanded role as game reporter and the Fox Sports 1 cable channel, launching Aug. 17, will be a new factor in the expanding challenge to ESPN.

Then this: The big-market West Coast teams might have to step up and become bigger TV draws if the usual national TV attractions -- the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox -- have less than stellar seasons.

Fox's game coverage will try to have a more national feel. "No matter what game we're doing, we're talking about the broader picture in baseball," lead announcer Joe Buck said. "We may talk about North Korea, I don't know." He can (presumably) be such a kidder.

ESPN's MLB changes include trying to assign analysts to games involving teams they played for or managed, such as Aaron Boone on Yankees games, Curt Schilling on Red Sox games and Manny Acta on Washington Nationals or Cleveland Indians games. The other big change: moving JohnKruk from the studio to the booth on the marquee Sunday night games, replacing Terry Francona, now managing the Indians.


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Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013


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