5-at-10: Bracketed chat on NCAA discussion, Kirby’s comments, Braves TV partner files bankruptcy

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart celebrates victory over TCU after the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. Georgia won 65-7. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Tournament time

Yes, we love the NCAA tournament. Everyone does.

But it's more than great basketball or golden moments that mark time.

Everyone loves the tournament because everyone loves the brackets.

There have been no fewer than 20 folks at the TFP home office who tried to decline a bracket this week in our office pool.

Side note: The always gray area of the legality of office pools is as dated as VCRs and Zack Morris' boot-size portable phone. I actually called some legal voices for a story on the legality of office pools in Tennessee. Most believed that as long as the "house" was not making money, there was no laws being broken. Plus, who would want to arrest Susan Pierce every March for being criminally good at getting 12 of the Sweet 16? And who would have time to enforce it around these parts with all the sting operations to shut down the drag shows these days?

Anyway, the brackets are more than an office distraction come Thursday and Friday or the root of the two least productive work days of each year.

The brackets are the springboard that has elevated March Madness to its ultimate highs and its potentially self-destructive natural progression.

The NCAA tournament is sports at its best. It's also quite possibly the worst way to pick a worthy champion, but that's beside the point because we all want Loyola with the ball down one against a 3 seed as Sister Jean bites her 96-year-old finger nails and Jim Nantz says, "Friends, this could THE moment" and the ball is launched and Bill Raftery screams, "ONIONS" and the shining moment of magic happens.

Brackets give us that, because as great as that sports moment is for Loyola and Sister Jean, and the small collection of their fans, we all scan the brackets.

Who had Loyola to win? (Yeah, Susan likely did.)

Who had that 3 seed going to the Final Four?

Who's bracket is ruined, whose -- other than Susan's and Sister Jean's -- moves to the top of the standings?

So as they discuss expanding the field closer to 100, a word of caution for the new regime in Indianapolis running the NCAA.

More is not always better. And more teams -- if it means more headaches and frustrations and difficulties running one-sheet brackets -- could be the Midas touch that kills the Golden Goose.

More teams would be a more fair event I suppose, at least in terms of inclusion.

But overall fairness -- at least in determining a champion -- has never been the NCAA's goal when it comes to the NCAA tournament.

It's always been about money, and when the NCAA brass sees the billions being discussed when the football playoff expands in coming years, the thoughts of cashing in with expansion to its most-coveted TV property are natural.

And they are wrong.

Because while there assuredly will be a bidding war the next time the TV rights come up -- and more games means more broadcasts, which means more dollars -- that will make the cash register soar, if an expanded field damages the ease or the enjoyment of the brackets, it will be a giant first step down a potentially cataclysmic road.

We love the drama, sure. But it's because we're vested, and when I mean we, I mean everyone.

The girl in accounting. The guy in sales who picks the first road by which mascot would win in a death match. The elderly lady at the front desk who knows your kids, their ages and their birthdays who will always pick Tennessee even though we all know they are going to have an extremely tough time. And that guy who someway, somehow just grew up a big Alabama football fan and a big Kentucky basketball fan, too. Conveniently enough.

Yes, those that turn to the sports page first will watch the NCAA tournament every year, and we will remember where we were when Bryce Drew beat the buzzer or when Laettner was perfect or Jimmy V became a legend looking for an embrace.

But the rest of the country -- the folks that enjoy and connect with all the bracket racket -- needs those wonderful sheets.

Here's hoping the new NCAA chief is wise enough to know that as the sport almost assuredly will turn the page on the field of 64 in the coming years.

Kirby Confidential

So Georgia opened spring football practice this week.

It's been a great run on the field for the Bulldogs, who have won the last two national titles and coach Kirby Smart has been seen atop some of the annual offseason click-bait of "Best coach in college football right now." (Side note: As great as Smart's run in Athens has been, even Bearddawg will say Lord Saban has to be Numero Uno on any such list. Still.)

Speaking of continued excellence, man, no one around the South does their reporting job consistently as well as David Paschall covers college football for the TFP subscribers.

Here's Paschall's prose on Georgia opening spring practice, and Kirby saying he and his staff have complete control of their program, which has had some tough times since winning its second natty in 13 months in January.

First, the events on the road with the racing earlier this winter that led to two deaths were tragic. And avoidable. Kirby addresses the steps the football program has made in trying to address some of those issues.

Truthfully, Smart's program almost assuredly has more safeguards in place than any other campus group. And if we are being honest, those heart-breaking ends to those promising young lives just as easily could have happened to the Fijis, the staff of the "Red & Black" or any other UGA organization if we are being honest about it.

That said, Kirby is wrong in one nit I will pick: I don't think anyone has complete control over a small group of 18-to-22-year-old dudes, never mind 100-plus of them who are five-star athletes who could be millionaires in a matter of years.

But that's uniform and unequivocal truthfully, whether it's Smart or Saban or whomever you find on any of those "Best Coach" lists these days.

Still, Paschall's report is, as always, worth your time. You know the rules.

Bigger than regional story

Diamond Sports Group filed bankruptcy Tuesday night. They are more than $8 billion in debt.

So, if you're wondering, "Hey Fat Face, why do I care? Give me more funny. Make me a bicycle, clown."

Well, first, it's Mr. Fat Face to you. And second it's kind of a sneaky big deal.

Diamond Sports Group owns the regional sports networks that provide the TV portal for 42 MLB, NHL and NBA franchises. Among that group is a little club called the Atlanta Braves, who will become the backdrop of our summer around these parts when the season starts in three weeks.

(Side question: Crazy to think MLB starts in three weeks right? Good times.)

Anywell, rest easy for the immediate future. Diamond said in court filings that has close to half-a-billion dollars on hand to keep operating. It has paid the licensing fees to the Braves and most of the other MLB teams for this season.

As for the future, though, who knows. But the time timing of this makes the hurried attempt to get the pace of play rules enacted sooner rather than later if there are going to be 14 teams looking for new TV partners in the next 12-plus months.

It also is the first group that has overpaid in the it-costs-a-leg-and-two-arms rade that has been bidding for live sports to go belly-up.

That's not a good sign and one of which every network and professional and major college sports league will be very well aware.

Now if the bankruptcy process is complete, Diamond's properties could go dark. When asked about this, MLB said they are prepared to produce and distribute the games of teams in local markets.

"We think it will be both linear in the traditional cable bundle and digitally on our own platforms," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in the ESPN.com story of what it would look like if MLB takes on the responsibility of airing games in local markets at the onset of spring training. "But that remains to be seen."

Can you imagine what Claudell in Cahutta or Delores in Daisy is gonna do or say if they have to go find a July Braves on a streaming service?

Another big part of this big story is Diamond reportedly is going to shed the lesser-performing teams, like say the Diamondbacks.

This will not impact the Braves if Diamond stays afloat and emerges from the bankruptcy process able to move forward, but shedding teams and leaving certain teams with great (and lucrative) TV partnerships and other with just OK TV deals and still others with none, well, the divide in baseball would become the biggest across all sports between the haves and the have nots.

This and that

-- The Plays split Tuesday, with the Bucks handling the Suns but the Mississippi State Bulldogs failing to deliver against the Pitt Panthers in the Jackie Sherrill Invitational known as the First Four games. So it goes.

-- Speaking of the Plays of the Day, I have communicated with the Web Team and we will have two email newsletters Thursday and Friday. We will have one a little before noon for the first round of the first round and then the normal blast at 5. Deal? Deal. Let's win some dough.

-- War Vandy. The Commodores advanced in round 1 of the NIT last night and will host Michigan on Saturday. That would be cool for the Fightin' Stacks to cut down the NITs in NYC.

-- Speaking of NCAA basketball changes, I think the calendar should flip for conference championship weeks. Let the Power Five leagues play first and give those leagues that are traditionally one-bid leagues those prime Saturday and Sunday slots right before the selection. Most of the big conference TV numbers were down this year while the smaller league viewership was up compared to last year, according to SportsMediaWatch.com.

-- Got to love this deal for Daniel Jones and the Giants, right? New York sent a third-round pick to Las Vegas for Darren Waller, who was banged up for most of 2022 but was an absolute dude in 2021 when he was healthy.

-- Our "No political chatter until Easter" is still in effect. So we offer the following story as a headline without commentary. San Francisco is reviewing a reparations proposal that would, from the AP, issue "Payments of $5 million to every eligible Black adult, the elimination of personal debt and tax burdens, guaranteed annual incomes of at least $97,000 for 250 years and homes in San Francisco for just $1 a family." So there's that.

Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way:

Which team cuts down the nets and wins it all?

Which coach will finish with more titles, Smart or Saban?

Which sporting event is your favorite? Which is your favorite to bet on?

Which was your best bracket prediction? (Mine was picking Danny Manning and Kansas in 1988. It's one of maybe a half dozen bracket pools I have won through the years.)

As for today, beware the Ides of March.

Caesar was killed on this day in 44 B.C.

My parents were married on this day in 1969.

Wow, "The Godfather" premiered on this day in 1972. Buckets. If I had realized that before 9:26 a.m., I would have done a theme show.

Rushmore of best scenes from the original "Godfather." Go.