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03. 24. 2008

March Madness and women's basketball on the Web and elsewhere


It's not exactly news that more and more chunks of our lives are lived on the Internet. But every now and then we get a reminder - of how, for example, the 'net increasingly is taking over jobs that used to be exclusively television's. Case in point: March Madness, a US sports phenomenon that is also a television phenomenon, disrupting regular programming for weeks every spring. It is now huge on the Web as well - and destined to get even more so this year.

Because it eats up a good deal of April, too, we still have several more weeks of March Madness, the NCAA Men's Division annual basketball championship, a tourney with scores of games and a dizzyingly complex playoff structure. That gives us all plenty of time to check out this year's biggest deal, an experiment at Joost, the free video site. Joost is conducting a hugely ambitious live test of its video streaming system, planning to broadcast every single game to anyone anywhere in the world.

The actual games are the least of March Madness, but the side activities are a Web phenomenon too. There are dozens - probably hundreds - of sites and blogs keeping track of brackets, many collected at the Bracket Project. What's a bracket? As the usually invaluable Wikipedia explains, a bracket is the "diagrammatic representation of the series of games played during a tournament, named as such because it appears to be a large number of interconnected (punctuational) brackets." Got that? A 2006 New York Times article also attempted clarification, with equally opaque results. To me, anyway. See the pic above, which is sort of a help.

Brackets aside, there's another March basketball Madness going on too, although you wouldn't know it from the buzz. That would be the NCAA Women's Division Championship.

The women's games will be on TV - but on the cable sports network ESPN, which is pay TV, not the much bigger broadcast network CBS, home to the hottest guy games, which is free TV. (Actually, mostly the women's games will not be on ESPN either, but on ESPN2, the junior channel where the lesser sports get exiled.) But will Joost be broadcasting the women's games to the entire planet? Hah. What about the Bracket Project? Nada - although you can find brackets for the women's games at the bottom of this Wikipedia article on the 2008 women's championship, and also on the CBS site.

March Madness is so pervasive that even Republican Presidential candidate John McCain features a bracket (for the men's championship only) on his site. So you might expect that, since her strength is with women voters, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's site is taking note of the women's basketball championship. It does not appear so. The Clinton campaign does have an event called March Madness. It's a voter registration drive. There's a moral there somewhere.

Posted by Tam    Category: culture | entertainment | feature | on the web
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