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Embarrassing, ESPN

While the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has produced a record number of lower-seeded teams winning in the first round, the chalk, as expected, is dominating the women’s tournament, which began yesterday.

The only wins for lower seeds, not counting the 8-vs-9 matchups, which are tossups anyway? St. Bonaventure, a No. 10, over Oklahoma State (7), and Albany, a No. 12, over Florida (5).

ESPN normally covers the first and second round games of the tournament in “whip-around” fashion, meaning it will cut from game to game to game to show the most competitive game to the largest audience. An exception to the whip-around is if a local team is playing in your area, then that game is protected, meaning ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU will not cut away from that game. For instance, when Missouri plays BYU this evening, the entire states of Missouri and Utah, plus the Kansas portion of the Kansas City metro, will see the Tigers and Cougars from start to finish.

One team, however, is immune to whip-around coverage for the first two rounds.

Of course, it can only be ESPN’s darlings, the Connecticut Huskies.

ESPN went to UConn and asked them to start today’s game vs. woefully outmanned Robert Morris at 11 a.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Central, 9 Mountain, 8 Pacific) so it could be shown to everyone before the other 15 games today tip off at Noon Central.

Geno Auriemma, who never met a spotlight he didn’t aim at himself, jumped at the idea.

Of course, the good people of the Nutmeg State aren’t going to complain about being able to showcase their Husky women to everyone else, either.

What is going on right now in Storrs is beyond atrocious. It is utterly embarrassing to everyone associated with Robert Morris University, a small, private liberal arts college near Pittsburgh.

At the end of the first quarter–the women now play in quarters, not halves like the men–it is UConn 41, Robert Morris 4.

That’s right. FORTY-ONE TO FOUR.

Shame on you, ESPN. Shame on you for foisting this “game” upon us. UConn would have been better served scrimmaging a Connecticut girls high school All-Star team. It would have been better off scrimmaging a UConn alumni team of Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Rebecca Lobo, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi. Heck, let former UConn All-American Shea Ralph, now an assistant to Auriemma, suit up again. Where’s Svetlana Abrosimova? Aisha Jones? Jennifer Rizzotti? Kara Wolters?

ESPN has shoved the UConn women down our throats for over 20 years. We have been led to believe women’s college basketball, at least as long as it’s coming to us from Storrs, Hartford, or wherever the Huskies are playing, is on par with the men’s game.

Only at UConn could a men’s team which has won four national championships since 1999 be relegated to second-class status. And I wonder what football coach Bob Diaco thinks about having a smaller budget than the women’s basketball team. No wonder Randy Edsall flew straight to Maryland after losing the Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma on New Year’s Day 2011.

Until there are more women’s basketball teams who can actually challenge UConn consistently, why bother watching?

ESPN executives, game announcers Dave O’Brien and Doris Burke, and Lobo (Mrs. Steve Rushin), an ESPN studio analyst, should go hat in hand to Robert Morris’ campus and apologize to all associated with the university for shaming these young ladies on national television. I’m sure the Robert Morris players and coaches are handling this far better than I. Good for them. That’s more class than Geno Auriemma will ever know.

I’ll get off the soapbox. Wichita State and Miami tip off the men’s tournament in 35 minutes.

Out late

I’m still at Buffalo Wild Wings as the clock is approaching 10 p.m. Guess I’m making up for lost time tonight, since I didn’t get here until 7.

I don’t want to linger too late, though. I want to be back tomorrow in time to see Lisa and Raymie for the early shift. Tori is working tomorrow night behind the bar, and I

I’m disappointed I’ve missed two of my old trivia pals, Dan and Pam, and their kids during all this time I’ve been coming in March. I think they’ve been in four times, and each time, I haven’t been there. I wonder if they’re ducking me. I hope that isn’t the case. 

Just found out Notre Dame beat Baylor to advance to the NCAA women’s Final Four. EEEWWW. Not happy about that outcome. 

Random Monday thoughts

It’s a lovely Monday in Kansas City, but it won’t be that way for long. Storms are moving in late tonight, and should be in town through most of the day Tuesday. Ugh. My last day before I go back to Russell–at least for a couple of days–and it’s going to rain. 

I’m back at Buffalo Wild Wings. Got here a little later than I had hoped, but it’s still early enough. I figure to be here through at least 8:30, because Buzztime’s The Pulse is tonight at 7. 

The only basketball on tonight is the NBA and NCAA women’s tournament. If anyone comes close to UConn, it will be a total shock. 

NFL owners have just voted to suspend blackouts of exhibition and regular season games for the 2015 season. Under NFL rules in place since 1973, if a team’s game does not sell out within 72 hours of kickoff, the game is blacked out to any station whose signal penetrates within a 75-mile radius of the home team’s stadium. In some cases, the NFL will allow for an extension of deadline to 48 hours, or in rare instances, 24 hours. 

In the case of the Chiefs, the stations in Kansas City and Topeka are blacked out when the Chiefs do not sell out, leaving Wichita and Omaha as the closest markets which will show the games. The Chiefs have rarely had that problem, with the only recent blackout in 2011 vs. Cleveland. 

Prior to 1973, all home games, sold out or not, were blacked out in the local market. This also affected the first six Super Bowls, two of which were played in New Orleans. My father tells me the story from time to time of how he went to a relative’s house to watch Super Bowl IV, since that house had an antenna which could pick up WAFB, the Baton Rouge CBS affiliate. Baton Rouge was blacked out for Saints regular season games, but not Super Bowls IV and VI.  

The NFL blackout rule has come under heavy fire. Many in Congress have threatened the NFL’s antitrust exemption over it. The Federal Communications Commission repelaed the rule last year, but it has no bearing on how the NFL operates, meaning the blackout rule is still in effect.

In 2011, the NFL offered a new program for teams struggling to fill their stadiums. They could lift the blackout when 85 percent of non-premium seats were sold, but in return, that team would have to give all visiting teams a higher percentage of gate receipts. A few teams, including the Colts, Chargers, Jaguars and Bills, balked at this proposal and kept the blackout threshold at 100 percent. 

Pedro Gomez is on SportsCenter right now, talking about how the defending World Series champion Giants are struggling during spring training. SO WHAT? It doesn’t matter for another two weeks.