War in Iraq affects television sports

March 20, 2003 at 1:15 PM
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BRISTOL, Conn., March 20 (UPI) -- As advertised, much of the first-round action in the NCAA basketball tournament was telecast by ESPN because of continuing coverage of the war in Iraq by CBS.

President Bush made a brief speech Wednesday night, a little more than two hours after his deadline for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to vacate his country.

NBA and NHL games in progress came to an abrupt halt as the speech was shown on arena scoreboards, and most cable and television networks carried the speech.

"It's tough getting called off the court and not knowing what to expect or how long it's going to last," said New Orleans forward Jamal Mashburn. "You don't know when you're going back on the court. When we came back out, we were a little bit out of sync, but this is the real world. This is about war, and everything else is pretty much secondary."

Both the NCAA and CBS, its major broadcast partner, appear intent on making sure the NCAA Tournament goes on without interruption, a sentiment seconded by former Duke All-American Shane Battier of Memphis.

"I saw something on SportsCenter that was pretty moving for me," Battier said. "They were talking to a young man in Kuwait and he was saying how important sports were to our guys and girls over in the Middle East. I know a lot of them follow us and want us to keep on keeping on. I'm going to do my job to the best of my ability and bring a piece of America to the Middle East and try to raise the morale of our guys over there."

According to a network spokesman, ESPN and ESPN2 will be able to accommodate games Thursday and Friday.

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