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Bulls of the Week
“Best bracket wins $1 million.”
So it goes for several of the big bracket contests for the NCAA College Basketball Championship, popularly known as March Madness.
The evolution from the quest for perfect brackets to best brackets is, of course, a natural response to how this passage of spring has become synonymous with upsets, especially early in the tournament. The point being is that “bracketology” — especially in this era of digital and social media — is one of the key drivers of the ridiculous levels of fan engagement associated with March Madness.
The other drivers that make the tip-off to March Madness this week so bullish include the marketing of the event and the wall-to-wall television and streaming coverage available to fans on both sides of the border.
CBS Sports in the U.S. and TSN in Canada make every single game in the tournament easily accessible to fans. It’s an obvious tribute to the appeal of the event that even a Canadian broadcaster would carry all 66 games of the U.S.-based tournament.
Yet what makes this tournament a magnet for young basketball fans everywhere is the way it is so brilliantly packaged, promoted and presented. From the First Four — the play-in games that allow 68 schools to be part of the Madness — to the Final Four in April, the NCAA hoops championship is the best-branded varsity tournament in the world. The Sweet Sixteen. The Elite Eight. The Final Four. Every phase of the tournament has a feel of its own.
Sharing in the bull market of NCAA college hoops is Canadian basketball itself. It is notable there are 24 Canadians in this year’s tournament and an average of 90 Canadians have played NCAA Division I basketball during the past five years. That helps explain why there are now 13 Canadians playing in the NBA and the growing potential most people see in the national men’s team program.
At some point, with more Canadians playing in the NBA than any other country except for the U.S., Canada should be among the perennial medal favourites whenever the basketball world gets together for FIBA World Cups and Olympic Games.
Bears of the Week
Randy Ambrosie has been a most impressive CFL commissioner since he was hired almost two years ago. But he’s had better weeks. When things are bearish for the CFL, they’re bearish for him and the grander plans he has for CFL 2.0.
In one week, Ambrosie has been grilled by those fearing a reduction or elimination of the Canadian content rules for CFL rosters, criticized for not getting an earlier start on collective bargaining with the CFL Players’ Association and increasingly second-guessed about what his Mexican plan will do for the league both short-term and long-term.
Ambrosie has been such a great communicator since his hiring that the confusion around the notion of reserving two “global” player spots on CFL rosters have been among his first missteps. Mapping that out first behind closed doors with the CFLPA to get the union on board before going public is probably what the CFL should have done.
Instead, the polarizing debate around the “Canadian 7” roster rule has become the most polarizing week of Ambrosie’s tenure as CFL boss.
The Sport Market on TSN Radio rates and debates the bulls and bears of sport business. Join Tom Mayenknecht Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. PT for a behind-the-scenes look at the sport business stories that matter most to fans.
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