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Monday November 30 2015
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The Numbers Game

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There’s nothing new about this time of year - we’re getting out the madness of winter as we march toward another form of madness. Then we turn our attention to April, pretty much talking and acting like summer is already here as we look to flee the ache that typically accompanies our winter.

We also hear about all kinds of numbers this time of year: Falling temps, raising temps. The growing number of potholes and phone numbers available for you to call reporting potholes the size of mobile homes. The over/under on how many games the Pirates will win. The number of games remaining before the NHL season begins. And, of course, the spot where the Steelers pick in the draft.

There are many March Madness numbers you also can’t avoid - what seed Pitt will receive, how many Big East teams will get in and the number of games Pitt will win, or which numbers you “need to have” in order to win your NCAA pool.  Anything to do with March Madness numbers could easily fill the rest of this space.

But what about the Madness television ratings – what about those?

The ratings went through the roof this year. Not just bumps overall compared to 2010, but also gains within specific key demographics, largely 18-54 year old men.

So what produced these numbers?

One major reason being offered is the new four-headed network monster of CBS, TBS, TNT and Tru TV, compared to last year’s CBS. After sifting through the predictable “I don’t know what Tru TV is or if I have it” questions, somebody sure found the answers, even if Pitt wasn’t playing. Again, the numbers speak for themselves, but it seemed like fans liked being able to “play producer” as CBS reminded us of early in the tournament, finding games they wanted, when they wanted.

No question, having all the games on all the time was keen.

Speaking of games, they may have had something to do with it, huh? Face it, there are better seasons of March Madness than others. For most of us, it’s simply better when David beats—or at least has a shot against—Goliath. That was more than the case this year. As a matter of fact, by the second weekend, a rare night of blowouts was considered unusual, as if the games weren’t living up to their end of the bargain. That’s how quickly fans had become accustomed to games going down to the wire.

Regardless, it was special this year and while that doesn’t happen without the teams, even if there indeed were too many Big East entries, give credit to television too. It gave fans what they wanted and largely got out of the way.

Maybe there’s even a lesson or two there, just maybe.

Neil Walker’s contract expires after the 2016 season. The Pirates second baseman is due for a big raise in arbitration this offseason—likely to $10 million—and signing him to a long-term extension will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$15 million annually.
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