Time Traveling with Doug Gottlieb

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It takes four networks, if only one corporate partner, to cover the first days of the NCAA Tournament properly. There is just that much basketball being played; as this year's record ratings suggest there are enough basketball degenerates willing to neglect their work in favor of watching Akron get blown out at 2pm on a weekday, in between ads featuring an extravagantly made-up Alec Baldwin sneering about opaque credit card slang, plugs for TruTV shows in which in which some real Nevada-looking people yell at each other, and ads for new Turner-affiliated series like White Cops, Shaquille O'Neal Presents YouTube Videos and What Are You Gay Wearing That Shirt Just Kidding Love You Bro No Homo, a hit comedy that features one of the guys from That '70s Show.

Anyway, this is a lot of basketball, and puts a real human resources crunch on the CBS/Turner networks, which are tasked with finding the necessary and necessarily large number of qualified Basketball-Talking Guys to handle that workload. For the most part, the NCAA's networks have done fairly well with this. This site's high opinion of Bill Raftery is a matter of public record, and most of the veteran college basketball types on the job are competent at worst and Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel at best. To the extent that there are shortfalls, here, they're mostly due to the presence of the network's otherwise excellent NBA studio team, which doesn't seem to have felt especially pressured to learn anything about college basketball before going on air to talk about it, and the continued and baffling presence of Reggie Miller, whose familiar trolling is no less overenunciative, interrupt-y, over-certain or loathsomely self-tickling during college games than it is during NBA games, but is a good deal less well-informed.

Doug Gottlieb, the former Oklahoma State point guard who spent time at ESPN before joining the CBS studio team, did color commentary on a few games during the opening rounds, and will be back in the studio for the duration. Neither of these is necessarily a bad thing. As a color commentator, Gottlieb's spiralling grumpiness led him down some narrow, musty Billy Packer-haunted rhetorical alleys; he's sharp, but has not yet achieved aRaftery-ian level of enlightenment, and so still gets peevish when presented in person with the myriad and unrelenting fuck-ups of high-pressure college basketball. As a studio presence, Gottlieb's tartness and studied impatience plays a lot better: equally well-informed, less Packer-ishly pissy. If you watch college basketball a lot, or plan on watching it a lot, you should probably get used to Doug Gottlieb. You might even want to follow him on Twitter, where he's as tart and college basketball-obsessed as you might expect him to be.

You'll just need to make sure to follow the right Doug Gottlieb account. Back in 2009, when Twitter was young (and I, myself, was being chastised by my bosses at MLB.com for being too "voicey" in the fantasy baseball update tweets they were paying me $12 an hour to write a few late nights a week), Gottlieb was still at ESPN, where presumably someone asked him to start up a Twitter feed. And so, on the early days of the 2009 NCAA Tournament, @DougGottlieb came to be. It didn't last very long.

Gottlieb got himself verified and picked up 36,000-odd followers, which is roughly a third as many as he has today. He went ahead and followed 30 people. Gottlieb follows notably more today, but his list of circa-2009 followers is, like the rest of his abortive Twitter attempt, a dorky, totally insignificant, and oddly interesting look at where Doug Gottlieb's head was four years ago, when he was still at ESPN, ESPN did not yet belong to Tim Tebow and Skip Bayless, and Twitter was smaller and a little less loud.

Admittedly, there's not much to go on, here. 2009 Gottlieb's five tweets begin with what is maybe the most 2009 College Basketball Tweet possible: a totally warranted bashing of loutish Syracuse gunner Eric Devendorf, a loathsome Marshall Henderson precursor who replaced Henderson's sub-Yelawolfian Bad Country White Dude overstatement with, um, violence against female classmates.

After that, it's mostly proto rise-and-grindisms and vague riffing on the NCAA Tournament (why CAN'T it last all year long?). And then it's quiet, although perhaps Gottlieb was still reading the tweets of his 30 followers, who include filmmaker and personalized hockey jersey enthusiast Kevin Smith, Dave Matthews, Tony Robbins, some women affiliated with various sports marketing concerns, both Trent Reznor and Perez Hilton, as well as the emotive anthropomorphization of E! Entertainment Television Giuliana Rancic, and, most intriguingly, T Magazine, the aggressively fatuous fashion supplement of the New York Times Magazine.

The world was a different place in spring of 2009, of course, and it stands to reason that Doug Gottlieb would be different, too. He's broken with ESPN, and was frank enough upon his departure to ensure that he likely won't be back; he's moved up in the world, and will likely continue to, because he's smart and pretty good at his job. But spare a moment, as Gottlieb continues his ascent, for the more innocent 2009 Doug Gottlieb who is still floating in suspension around Twitter, who has been waiting for something to happen that's worth a tweet since April of 2009, who is receiving lord knows what wisdom from Perez Hilton at this point, and who is, at the very least, still dead-on correct about Eric Devendorf.

Thanks to Loni Berman and Sid Kaptsenel for putting me up on Gottlieb's ghost feed.

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