CBS Sports’ Ernie Johnson: NCAA March Madness a Ratings Hit Because Politics Have Been Left Out

Luke Maye, Edrice Adebayo
The Associated Press

CBS/Turner sportscaster Ernie Johnson thinks he knows why his network’s coverage of NCAA March Madness is such a hit: the left-wing politics have been left outside the broadcast booth door.

Johnson thinks the NCAA has come just at the right time to help many Americans forget about politics, if only for a little while, and the ratings show that people are happy to have something else to talk about.

“It’s such a good thing for our country, because it brings people together at a time when everybody is so stinking confrontational these days. I mean, it just seems to me that everybody wants to get on each other, everybody wants to attack everybody,” Johnson told Sporting News this week.

Indeed, if the ratings are any indication, March Madness has made a comeback with fans. Viewership is up 34 percent over ratings for 2015, making this year’s games the most-watched tournament in 24 years.

Johnson thinks the ratings jump is because the tournament has become a respite from the turmoil infesting the rest of the news media.

“This is one of those things where you can go to the water cooler and talk to somebody you may not have talked to before. Suddenly, you’re having a discussion about whether you think Michigan has a chance to move on, or whether North Dakota can make a run,” Johnson continued. “That’s what I’ve always loved about the tournament. I just think the ratings go up because people need it. People actually need an event like that so they can kind of say, ‘Let’s get away from everything for a little while and watch a little college hoop.'”

This is far from the only time the sportscaster has expressed a desire to see Americans come together. Just after the presidential election last year he upset liberals when he insisted that Trump won and we need to give him a chance.

As he opened “Inside the NBA” last November, Johnson noted he is praying for Trump and the nation.

“I’m gonna pray for Donald Trump, I’m gonna pray for all those people right now who feel like they’re on the outside looking in, who are afraid at this point,” Johnson said during the November 10 broadcast. “I’ll pray for them, too. In short, I’m praying for America, and I’m praying that one day we’re gonna look back and we’re gonna say: ‘You know what? That Donald Trump presidency? That was all right.’ But I’m praying.”

In that spirit, during his new interview with Sporting News, Johnson also said that he is not a fan of social media because it is all too easy to go negative.

“I just wish Twitter was used in a more positive way. I’m not singling out Twitter, there’s a lot of social media,” Johnson exclaimed.

“But I think we’re missing a real opportunity if we don’t try to be positive,” Johnson said. “I think we can help a lot more than we are right now. Too many people use it as just a way to get at people, and attack, and try out their mean material. ‘Aren’t I funny? Didn’t I eviscerate this guy?'”

“I don’t like that part of it. We’re better than that. We, as people, are better than that,” he concluded.

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