When games tip off tomorrow, TV crews will embark on what is likely their most difficult job since sports restarted.
March Madness is the most complicated sporting event to broadcast — and the pandemic only heightens the complexity, Chairman of CBS Sports Sean McManus told reporters.
Some CBS broadcasters like Jim Nantz have spent weeks on the road already, going in and out of isolation in hotel rooms and adhering to strict COVID protocols. “It’s been hard, I’m not going to kid you,” Nantz told reporters.
And the work will only get more intense from here, especially the first weekend: Broadcast crews both in the studio and at games can work long, grueling shifts covering up to four games in one day.
McManus remains confident that for viewers, games will look normal.
But behind the scenes, there are unique changes. This year, there will be 10 television crews working games instead of eight. Crews will also use more robo-cams over basketball nets than they have during previous years.
As has been the case with other games this year, the sideline reporting job is particularly difficult. CBS’ Tracy Wolfson, for example, said she’ll be relegated to a “pen” slightly off the court. That makes reporting logistically challenging, given that Wolfson can’t listen to in-game huddles, for example.
But at each of the tournament’s six venues, Wolfson will have to find a new place to work from. “Once you get comfortable in one spot, you’re going to be moved to another,” she said.
Fortunately, she’s confident that lessons learned from broadcasting previous games will help her work March Madness.
Broadcasters said they’re thrilled to be back in arenas regardless — even if just to socialize with each other and not be stuck in hotel rooms.
And calling the games? “It’s all gravy for us,” CBS analyst Bill Raftery said.