Sports Illustrated and TIME Collaboration: “The Game that Saved March Madness”


Princeton’s near-upset of Georgetown in a 1989 first-round game made sure Cinderella would always get invited to the ball

Today, a Sports Illustrated and TIME collaboration “The Game that Saved March Madness,” was published on The seminal piece on the 1989 Princeton-Georgetown epic NCAA Tournament examines the game that many credit as the accelerator of the NCAA tournament’s explosion in popular culture, and halted an effort by big schools to take automatic bids from the smaller schools. As a definitive oral history, the piece explores the game that drew a huge audience and the legend of it has lived for a variety of reasons; David v. Goliath, the teams played very contrasting styles; the sociology of the time in Reagan’s America; and the economics of media relations, how CBS helped the tournament grow by exposing it to a broader audience.

The SI/TIME “Game That Saved March Madness” project is a new kind of immersive storytelling platform, combining elements of documentary filmmaking and traditional one-on-one, conversational print interviews that give a classic game a new, impactful life.

Co-authors, SI’s Alexander Wolff and TIME’s Sean Gregory, a member of the Princeton team which upset UCLA, have scored firsthand accounts with almost every major player from the time including players from both teams, coaches, referees and analysts (Alonzo Mourning, Pete Carril, ESPN’s Dick Vitale, etc).

Of the controversial moments in which the game could have gone the other way, the story explores an unwhistled elbow from Alonzo Mourning. Referee Charles Range says, “Oh, God, yes, there should have been a call. Even if it’s incidental—you can have an offensive foul that’s incidental. It just happened to be the type of play that none of the referees saw it. That may have changed the whole game. I sort of got mad at myself and said, God, I wish I would have seen that.” Range’s regrets are news to Mueller [Kit]: “You’re kidding. I’d rather just have it the other way, where they saw it and didn’t think it was that bad. Killer. That would have been huge. Oh God. I’m going to go home and grind over that one. He didn’t see it. Oh, that hurts.”

To read the article, click here.



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