Bernstein: ‘First Four’ Was A Joke

By Dan Bernstein–

In 1965, the Beatles concert at Shea Stadium featured its own version of a “First Four,” before the Fab Four made history.

The unforgettable opening acts that set the tone for the show were King Curtis, Cannibal and the Headhunters, Brenda Holloway and Sounds Incorporated.

Might as well have been UNC Asheville, Clemson, Texas-San Antonio and VCU.

At least as far as I’m concerned, the NCAA Basketball tournament starts today, as it always has.

I spent a grand total of zero minutes tuned to any of this year’s inaugural artifice, perfectly confident that I have missed nothing of significance.

What was the idea, again, other than to allow a few more coaches to say to potential recruits and their own bosses that they’d made an appearance? If it was to test the waters for further expansion down the road, it seems like good news for those of us who are against that plan.

This pointless concept is the equivalent of the basket of warm rolls set down on the table as you’re seated at a steakhouse. Fill up on them if you want, but don’t confuse it with dinner. It’s all about that succulent, medium-rare, $45, bone-in ribeye to come, so don’t ruin your appetite.

I didn’t, so I’m more than ready for today’s glorious, first-round chaos – wait…they changed that, now, so the last two days were the first round, technically, today and tomorrow are the second and Saturday/Sunday is the third. Ok, then.

This is the event’s best weekend, and one of the best four-day spans we have as fans of anything, even without a specific rooting interest. Everything feels like it’s everywhere. Games tick by fast against a background of brass bands, weeping cheerleaders, red-faced coaches and the shouting of play-by-play men who are apparently watching the Hindenburg come down. The energy that begins today needs no lame, fake introduction.

(I’m even going to some of the games here as a fan for the first time since I watched DePaul’s thrilling win over St. John’s at the Horizon 24 years ago. The one when Dallas Comegys missed a free-throw intentionally, Rod Strickland scored, and Mark Jackson drove end-to-end but missed the potential game winner)

“NCAA decided to copy boxing, stage a dull, dreadful undercard to kill the anticipation,” Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel posted on Twitter last night.

I was always perfectly content to avoid those tomato-can contests leading up to the main event, too, back in the days when boxing was compelling. We know what we want to see, and bad matchups between insignificant opponents aren’t it.

The problem lies in the disconnect between the actual relevance of the games and what the NCAA purports with their placement as the official start of the party.

We are coming off some thrilling conference championship games between recognizable schools with nationally-known players, and then forcing an uncomfortable soft-launching of the big tournament two days before anybody’s ready, by showcasing teams nobody cares about.

I feel like I arrived at the show and settled in just as the lights are dimming for the star to take the stage.

If any of you chumps sat through that garbage warm-up act, I hope it was worth your time.

More from Dan Bernstein
  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I didn’t watch a second of the first-4 from Dayton, Ohio.

    I was surprised that USC lost its game last night.


  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Actually Bernsie, the late King Curtis had lots of talent.
    If you ever hear the oldie from the ’50s “Yakety Yak” that’s the King (not Paruch) playing the sax riffs.

    Before your time Bernsie.

    • My Beard

      Is this Gary from Evanston?

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        1. By cracky!
        2. No, I doubt Gary posts here.

    • Bluzman

      Agree. King Curtis had way more talent than any of those 4 schools. Bit of a slight against him for sure.

  • Likquid Swordz

    I didnt watch a second of the first four either (not too sure if it was televised up here)

    Go back to the 64 teams and please leave the city of Dayton

  • Pulseczar

    DB mentioning Strickland and Comegys reminds me that those days were the last time I really followed NCAA basketball. What a great time for the sport. I wasn’t around for the 60s and 70s, so the 80s are the golden era for me.

    Now, I only find myself going to back to replays of games past to watch current stars in their college days. Though only very rarely. For some reason I really got into yesterday’s reairing of Michael Redd’s Ohio State vs Ron Artest’s St. John’s. Well, for a quarter or so until I flipped off to Spongebob for my son.

  • Mr. Pouty Pants

    Shut up Bernsteen! Every part of the tournament is 100% awesome! YOUR GAY! I bet you tell you kids not to say the Pledge to the Legion at school you communist!


    • My Beard

      Yore gay!

    • Larry Horse's Arse


      Thanks, I need that this morning.

      Your use of yesterday’s “Pledge” was great!

    • D.O

      haha, that gave me a good laugh. I also couldn’t help but think “what about his gay?”

    • The Legion of Pledge

      I just listened to the show for the first time today, and I agree with Mr. Pouty Pants. I’m not much of a sports fan (I only watch hockey and take my kid to White Sox games), but Dan totally sounds like an idiot here. Even crazy guys like Bichiro, Government Fromage, or Gary from Evanston (men who I’ve only heard about through friends, because again I’ve never heard of this show before today) would have more common sense than this guy! TAKE A POLL! PROVE ME WRONG.

      Hang on, my wife wants to post, too.

    • Spoon

      I laughed so hard at the “Pledge of the Legion”, I too, feel our kids should stand up and head to north africa and give their Pledge to the Legion.

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      I am DYING… LoL.
      Well played, “Pants”.

      • Mr. Pouty Pants

        Thanks boys and girls, ok just boys.
        With a fantastic train wreck of material like that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Yup, “Pants” is the Brown’s Chicken Poster of the Day!

        I have re-read that post a couple of times because it is so totally friggin’ funny.

  • bronzo

    Boy was this a no brainer …I too didn’t watch 1 second of those “play in ” games. I know Dan doens’t care for college hoops because the talent level isn’t where he likes. That’s fine …I will enjoy watching the rest of this tourney.

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all my Irtish ( and Irish for a day) brethren. Slainte’

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      And to all I wish, “Beannachtai na Feil Padraig”…..the Blessings of St. Patrick.

      • bronzo

        Nice use of Gaelic Larry…St. Paddy’s day is big deal in my neighborhood…it’s about 70% Irish Catholic…me included.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        I’m wearing a green shirt and my St. Patrick’s tie (it is 30 years old and has been worn precisely 30 times!).

        LOL about the ‘hood.
        Me too.
        In our neighborhood we used to say that you were born a Democrat and then a few weeks later were Baptized a Catholic!

  • John in Antioch

    I watched most of the action (if for no other reason I have nothing better to do). The first game went to Overtime, the Clemson-UAB game was poor. The first game last night was a laugher in the first half, but then got somewhat interesting towards the end. The USC-VCU game wasn’t all that great either, but funny to see how everyone feel in love with USC to win the game, yet didn’t realize they are a really poor team. VCU was a better team.
    At any rate, the 4 games weren’t high on quality, but it was March college basketball none the less. Take it for what it’s worth. The fun does begin today!

  • Likquid Swordz

    Is it possible we actually see a #1 seed fall to a #16?

    I’m looking at you Pittsburgh

    • Mr. Pouty Pants

      No way, a 16 seed is not the 64th best team in basketball. Northwestern is better than those teams and while they played OSU very well they didn’t get a win.

  • flynn

    The problem with the NCAA Tourney is this: It’s the only sports event in this country that LOSES interest from fans, the closer you get to the Championship game. Thanks to those office pools, everyone and his mother makes their picks, and everyone is watching/asking for scores on those first two weekdays filled with games. But as we draw closer and closer to the Sweet 16, Elite 8, and ultimately the Final Four, those casual fans who lost their picks in earlier rounds fall by the wayside. I cant think of another Championship format where this occurs.

    • mad as hell fan...

      Not true. We pump the first rd up but it generally awful basketball for the most part but with exciting finishes. But people watch the final four weekend and people watch the elite 8 with strong interest.

  • Bob in Rockford

    I had every intention of watching these games, but couldn’t make it to halftime of the first three. By the time USC and Virginia Commonwealth were ready to begin I was done. I didn’t even try.

    The Wetzel post is gold because it so clearly crystallizes what many viewers were feeling. I very rarely choose soft drinks, but for two days I understood why Coke drinkers were so upset when New Coke hit the market. Maybe this idea should be retired as well.

  • Tom in RV

    Another thing I don’t understand is that CBS and the NCAA Tourney kept saying that the tournament starts with the ‘First Four’ on Tuesday. But if you use any (even CBS sport’s version) online bracket managers your entries do not need to be filled out until the first tip today and don’t even include the choice to pick the winners from the First Four games. So which is CBS/NCAA does the tournament start when your advertisements say or when your online bracket challenges say?

  • mmablaster

    I watched about 1 minute of the Clemson game just to make sure I had Tru TV for the real games.

    If the NCAA wants people to watch, they should ensure that you can actually pick those games in your Yahoo/ESPN brackets. Otherwise, who cares?

  • Murphs Upper-Lip

    Which number 1 team has the best chance of being upset? I think Chilean Mining Jobs better really be practicing hard this weekend, as I’ve heard from “MY GUY!” that Nascar Fans Who Love the Late Dale Earnhardt Way Too Much are highly motivated – and eager to make a name for themselves on this grand stage.

    • White Men Can't Pump Gas

      I was having a conversation with a dude at the urinal yesterday, and we decided that “Urinal Conversations” are great and were brutally over-rated as a #1 seed. That being said, I would not enjoy being stuck in a urinal conversation/impromptu peepshow with any gay “Fans of Glee”. (They’re all gay)

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        Plus, don’t they have to face Female Body Odor in the first round? That’s a ridiculously underseeded threat. To quote Goff (yet again), they “can beat you in a number of ways”.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Jason George Goff had me near-peeing with that one.
        I was laughing sooo hard at the pod that I was afraid the train conductor might take me to the mental hospital (again) or something.

  • JoeMan

    Get a hobby Bernstein. You’re a joke.

    • Murphs Upper-Lip


    • Spoon


    • M. Night Shamalamadingdong

      It’s called HOBBIES, they fight, get used to it!

      • Chris in Scottsdale


  • The Mayor of Skokie

    King Curtis rules. These Beatles you speak of couldn’t be that great if the Geto Boyz didn’t sample them.

  • Dr that doesn't help people

    I think the NCAA tournament should include every team in the WORLD

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I see that Texas Tech wants to hire Billy Gillispie.
    I’ll drink to that!

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I agree with the good Doctor.
    I would add every team in the world to the toon-a-mint.
    They’d need to broadcast games on every cable channel, even EWTN.
    I’d start by adding the Washington Generals.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      The best part of this plan is that Vitale need not wail, moan, gnash teeth, rend garments or sit shiva for any keeeds left out of the toon-a-mint.

      And he can continue to be a broadcasting suppository to EVERY Coach in the World.

    • Dr that doesn't help people

      And there would be a new law: employees would automatically be fired if they didn’t fill out the ENTIRE bracket.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Hmnn. Betcha the Governor of Wisconsin would go for that one right now.

  • Spoon

    This blog is preventing me from figuring out how far to drive to get the biskit her new car…

    • Spoon

      or maybe it’s the fact that driving 3 states for a car is making me sad…

  • Jon, Montgomery

    i don’t know if any of you guys are using this, but this free march madness on demand online is pretty fre.kin awesome!

    instead of having to hop around to my streaming sites, it’s all right in one place and in HD.

  • sophist

    So why’s the TOB link not obvious on the front page of the site or under Bernstein’s blog. This is the weirdest megaprofitable website I have every visited.


    Not even the exciteable Gus Johnson & Len Elmore, let alone Jim Nantz & Clark Kellogg calling the action on TruTV, DIRECTV 246, could spice up a really, really dull “First Four” in Dayton, OH the last couple of nights. It’s bad enough the NCAA added a stupid “Play-In” game in which the “winner” likely becomes a punching bag for the #1 overall seed in the next round of the NCAA Men’s Tournament, such as what awaits #16 Texas-San Antonio tomorrow vs. #1 East seed Ohio State at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. Now they added a “First Four” which was as much as watching paint dry. After the last 2 nights of bad basketball, I wonder if the NCAA’s decision to expand the field to 68 teams was that smart an idea in the first place. After all, the college game lacks star players and the quality of basketball has gone down with so many players staying in school for only 1 year. I wish the field this time of year, even with Turner’s TNT, TBS & TruTV joining CBS Sports in providing live coverage of every game for the first time, would’ve stayed at 64. The “Play-In” game and the “First Four” simply aren’t necessary.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Nice going SHARK.
      You nailed it.

      I ignored the games in Dayton much as I ignore the NITs.

      NCAA, WYC???

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      It just gives the NCAA and the networks more ad time they can sell- especially if they sell it to clients as a whole package and don’t differentiate between matchups, it’s just essentially free hours… and they can even sell the fact that these games, as bad as they are, don’t have other NCAA games splitting their audience.

      As bad as the idea of a first four is to true NCAA fans, it’s probably here to stay. I just pray that they stop there.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        I understand that we are doomed to an annual enhancement of the revenue from tourism/visitors in Dayton, Ohio……but, in fairness, shouldn’t at least one of these sh!tty teams be mandated to do the water-bucket-filled-with-confetti trick???

  • Chris in Scottsdale

    Pitino in trouble with Morehead. Again.

    • Likquid Swordz

      Man I must be tired, I read that 3 times before I got it.

      “Hey Hey” – Krusty the Clown

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Sailed over my head too.
        Bravo to CIS.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      I’d love to see Pitino and his Cardinals go down to ignominous defeat.

      • Murphs Mustache comb

        Yeah, he is a creep.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Glad the effing SOB Pitino lost by one point.

        Maybe he can get a good table at a restaurant in his spare time.

  • meesohawnee

    “This pointless concept is the equivalent of the basket of warm rolls set down on the table as you’re seated at a steakhouse”.,,,no no.. its the same as all but the last 2 minutes of an NBA game dan. Come one. wake up. silly boy.
    Actually i think Pitino needs Less Head these days.

  • Joakim's bong

    I still think Dan, paints his face and body blue and cheers on his beloved Dukies. He is probably one of the original Camron crazies(gay) kind of like Murph is one of the original bleacher bums.

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