MEDIA WATCHDOG: Too Much Hate For Billy Packer

Street Talk MEDIA WATCHDOG: Too Much Hate For Billy Packer

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Why does everyone hate Billy Packer?
This year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has had an interesting sub-plot: the constant slamming of CBS analyst Billy Packer.  Seems Mr. Packer has more than his share of critics who are quick to take him to task for comments he makes and stances he takes regarding the state of college basketball and more specifically his in-game analyses.
His critics call him a curmudgeon, an ACC apologist, a Mid-Major basher, an NBA hater, pretty much everything but “late for dinner.”
Is it jealousy?  Are these criticisms even accurate?  Or are folks just tired of hearing from the man who has covered every Final Four since 1974 and is one of the most knowledgeable basketball analysts in history?
Let’s start with the critics who call Packer a curmudgeon who doesn’t seem to find much joy in the game.  Absolutely false!  Just because Packer doesn’t fawn all over coaches, doesn’t call every good freshman a ‘diaper dandy’, doesn’t pretend that the game he’s calling has the best players of all-time in it, doesn’t mean he isn’t enjoying the game he’s broadcasting or not admiring the skills of the players on the court.  It just means he’s not Dick Vitale, shamelessly self promoting, hysterically yelling, and always jumping off on irrelevant tangents.
With Packer you get actual analysis of the game he’s broadcasting. 
What a novel idea!
You get pointed comments and opinions on in-game coaching decisions, predictions of how the game will turn out (often within the first few minutes of the game), and if necessary, a breakdown of the game’s officiating.
He’s not always going to be right but he is going to give his opinion based on his 45 years of college basketball experience as a star player, assistant coach, and analyst.  Remember that’s what commentators are paid to do, give educated opinions and analyze the action in front of them so that the audience can learn more about the games’ nuances and benefit from his insight.
Packer gives you all that better than anyone currently working college basketball.  He’s quick to point out the body language of players, whether their shots are coming up short due to tired legs.  He’s often the first to comment on whether a coach has the right lineup in to confront an opponent’s defense or offense. 
He’ll tell you that a team appears to be more exhausted than their foe because their jerseys are more sweat-soaked.  He’ll tell you whether or not a particular freshman appears overwhelmed in a pressure filled situation or which coach got out-coached that day.
Sure he’s been critical of the selection committee at times questioning whether certain Mid-Majors deserve a tournament bid over an also-ran Big East, ACC, or Big Ten member.  And yes, last year he got burned when Bradley and Wichita State (teams he thought didn’t deserve bids) got to the Sweet 16 and George Mason made a run to the Final Four but when you stick your neck out, as all analysts should do, you’re sometimes going to be wrong.  I’d still rather have a commentator take a stand and be wrong than be an apologist or even worse – a shill.
If Packer appears biased towards the ACC it’s understandable.  After all he calls more ACC games than any others.  He attended an ACC school (Wake Forest) and is more exposed to ACC basketball on a more regular basis.  His belief that the ACC generally has the best brand of ball it is usually based in fact.  Over the years the conference has had more success when playing against outside competition than any other league.  The ACC is generally recognized as the best conference when computer rankings are done.  Plus, since 2001 the ACC has won half the basketball National Championships.
Packer is a great supporter of the college game and that’s why he’s often critical of the NBA.  He doesn’t want anything to take away from the NCAA.  He wants kids to stay in school longer which makes the college game better.  He wants high school seniors to actually attend college instead of skipping to the pros which makes the game better (see: Kevin Durant and Greg Oden). 
Packer loves college basketball and wants to see it continue getting better.  He’s not doing this for the money; he’s got plenty of that.  He does his job because he loves the game and wants to provide the audience with the best, most in-depth analysis possible.
Isn’t that what he’s supposed to do?
Sic ‘em boy 
Just a little bashing of my own.  Four words:  “lacrosse on the radio” raises a few simple questions:  Why?  Who listens? Who cares?  Steve Stofberg doing play-by-play?  Please…the big man’s got a good voice but who cares to listen? 
I know it’s Maryland’s state sport and all but again, who listens besides a group of preppies hanging out at the Mt. Washington Tavern?
What’s next?  Coverage of duckpin bowling?  Perhaps a jousting match? 
I think Baltimore could do quite well without radio broadcasts of lacrosse, indoor soccer, and the future of arena league football if we want to be considered “big league”.
Must See TV This Weekend!
  • Final Four coverage on CBS for the 26th consecutive year.
  • Wrestlemania XXIII on pay per view
  • Major League Baseball Opening Night, Sunday 4/1 on ESPN.
The Media Watchdog will bark at ‘ya again next week.

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