Even though he's far, far away from calling games, Billy Packer remains a master at getting his name in the news.
And he's as curmudgeony as ever. I know. It's about as shocking as learning that Packer enjoys himself some "cops and robber shows." (Scroll down for that anecdote.)
The former CBS broadcaster, who's still clearly polarizing, however intentional or unintentional it may be, spoke with Michael Hiestand of USA Today, telling the media critic he doesn't much approve of the way CBS and Turner are handling the coverage of the NCAA tournament going forward.
Among his objections: having NBA guys parachute in to call the games, hearkening back to the times he was asked to do NBA work and turning it down because he felt he wasn't versed enough in pro ball to earn mic privileges. He also now prefers the way ESPN promotes the college game over CBS.
Cannonball shots fired here:
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." And, he says, ESPN would have better NCAA promotion: "I don't believe I was in a promo for CBS college basketball in 25 years."The point about NBA talent is a fair one, and it's something we'll all be watching for next month. The thing Packer is forgetting: How many times did this clip and call get plugged into a March Madness promo? He's not exactly on point in that criticism, and it's clear he's comfortable talking about how snubbed he felt by the network since he's a few years removed from his duties at CBS Sports.
To this day, Packer does not filter himself; that is the Packer Brand. This shot at his former employer of more than 30 years is a bit surprising, though, yes? But ... maybe not. Maybe Packer's still sour about leaving, whether he can admit that publicly or not. This may be what he feels is the best way to cope/get revenge/deal with being told no at such a late stage in his professional life. No, no, I don't want to be involved with that sport anymore, anyway. College basketball didn't fire me; I quit.
Packer claims the sport has "regressed" incredibly in the past decade, so he's perfectly fine with not calling games. (We all know the feeling is more than mutual for many on the other side, too.)
Packer's also a big fan of cop shows, as I noted above. That's my favorite nugget about Hiestand's story. Police-oriented programming is often available on truTV, one of the four networks that will broadcast tournament games next month. Another one of Packer's problems — he worries about the folks who will be turned off by this new-fangled, degraded form of college basketball that's going to take over one of his favorite stations. Harumph.
The number, in my opinion, is much higher than that.
Packer says he likes watching truTV, one of the Turner channels carrying NCAA games. "And people who watch it aren't going to be happy they're missing their cops and robbers shows. If truTV viewers liked basketball, they'd already be watching ESPN."
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?"
Packer's a master at this stuff, people. First it was the broadcast chair, now it's the recliner. No matter how much so many want him to, he still won't go away, even when it comes to talking about a sport he clearly no longer embraces.