Now of course the talk is that the NCAA will "suspend" play in the NCAA Tournament if the U.S. goes to war. Without mocking the solemnity in such a decision, or showing disrespect to either our troops or Iraqi civilians, this strikes me as being a completely phony move. This will be a war in name only; a more appropriate term for what is about to happen in the Persian Gulf is "mass slaughter". At least in the early days of the war, our strategy will probably be to bomb Iraqi military targets, without direct confrontation with the enemy. For the most part, news coverage of this will be limited to anchors parroting military propaganda, with little information or truth emerging. Although the threat of domestic terrorism is present, it is a threat we've lived with for eighteen months, without the preemption of our favorite TV shows.
So why is the NCAA discussing the suspension of March Madness? Money !! At least for the first day of hostilities, CBS will feel obligated to show what every other network will show, with the same pictures, the same interchangeable pundits, the same Administration spin points. Of course, CBS could just as easily break in during the day with bulletins as events necessitate, the same way they would act if an important but unforeseen story were to break during the NCAA Tournament, but to break with the pack and not show wall-to-wall coverage of the war would be an eggregious violation of a broadcasting taboo, which is to be original.
And, of course, the NCAA couldn't simply put its jamboree on a smaller cable network, where those who are not interested in the predictable coverage of events overseas can watch. It might get bad ratings (or worse ratings than normal; one of the dirty little secrets about college hoops is that few people watch, even during the tournament, which is structured more as a sop to the gaming and sports bar industries than to the great mass of sports fans). So the NCAA Tournament, which didn't even delay its title game on the day Reagan was shot, will suspend play for a week, when CBS can resume its normal programming.
UPDATE: The NCAA announced this afternoon that the tournament will begin as scheduled, regardless of events overseas.