War protesters should pivot, let the ‘Madness’ work in their favor | TahoeDailyTribune.com

War protesters should pivot, let the ‘Madness’ work in their favor

Rick Chandler, Tribune correspondent

I see recently that more and more of you readers are jumping onto the antiwar bandwagon — joining with celebrities such as Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon and Carrot Top* in protest of impending military action against Iraq.

So far your efforts have not swayed the administration toward peace — President Bush saying last week that war protests will not change his direction. Bush, you see, has all the necessary allies on board and is ready to invade. After all, when you’ve got Spain and Mexico on your side, you’re holding a pat hand in my opinion.

So you protesters are not really dealing from a position of strength. You have one last chance to make your voices heard, but only if you listen to me. I think I have the key to bringing the war machine to a screeching halt — if that’s what you want to do. To stop war, clip this column and send it to your congressman, or actor Tim Robbins. Here goes:

From all indications it seems that war with Iraq, if it should happen, would begin in mid-to late March. What few people realize, however, is that such a war would send us on a collision course of unprecedented magnitude — a programming nightmare for a particular TV network and a very difficult viewing choice for most of America.

War with Iraq is scheduled for the same time as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

I don’t mean to be glib or disrespectful here, but this would be a real problem for many Americans. Here in the U.S., the NCAA Tournament is a religion unto itself — the fresh, sweet promise of spring after a harsh winter of ice hockey and the NBA. More money will be wagered, more employee production lost, more Chevy truck commercials seen during this tournament than during any other three-week period of the year. One would think that the Bush people, ever mindful of polls and ratings, would steer clear of our biggest sports tournament event. But evidently this has slipped under their radar.

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And think of poor CBS — this could be the death knell for the network. According to The Associated Press, if the U.S. goes to war with Iraq, CBS will probably shift its NCAA Tournament coverage to one of its other Viacom networks. CBS holds exclusive TV rights to the NCAA Tournament, which runs from March 20 through April 7.

So, the tournament may be seen on one or more of the other Viacom properties, such as MTV, UPN or the Black Entertainment Network. Yes, sticking it on UPN could kill the tournament entirely — shows there have been known to be canceled after only one or two weeks.

But there are many other Viacom networks where the NCAA Tournament could land. Here are some of those horrifying possibilities:

CMT: Meet your announcers, Dick Vitale, Billy Packer and Travis Tritt. “You know honey, the Dixie Chicks are talented and all, but they really don’t know much about the zone trap.”

VH1: Wisconsin-Green Bay vs. Illinois — the footage you were never meant to see!

Nickelodeon: “Using the telestrator is fine, but if I see those damn Rugrats run the give-and-go one more time I’m changing the channel.”

TNN: Hey, how come they’re only showing games in the South bracket?

Comedy Central: Not a lot of laughs at a Bobby Knight postgame press conference, but still better than 10-year-old Saturday Night Live reruns.

TV Land: Barney Fife on Arizona’s offense: “You’ve got to nip it, Andy! Nip it in the bud!”

I think you can see the implications. The NCAA Tournament must be broadcast by CBS, not for athletes, but for the sake of the mental well being of our citizenry. Counterprogramming a war during the same month is just crazy. We can wait this out, you know. We can attack in May, before the baseball season really gets interesting. Or wait until the summer when there’s nothing on but reruns anyway. It’s not like Iraq is going anywhere; they’re not going to slip across the Pakistani border and hide in a cave. Iraq would be too easy to find, it’s an entire country.

Mr. Bush, you can’t simply rely on your Cabinet advisers on this one, you have a much broader responsibility here. Before deploying troops inside Iraqi borders, you must consult a TV Guide.

Well, that’s my advice to the protesters. The next time you gather, put away the giant peace signs and the antiwar rhetoric. Simply point out that, if we go in as planned, we’re going to miss a minimum of five Duke games. Americans will put up with a lot, but they won’t put up with that.

It’s why the terrorists hate us. It’s the American way.

SET ITAL* May simply have been swept up in the crowd by mistake.

–ERick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at NBCSports.com. Contact him at RickChand@earthlink.net.END ITAL