By Barry Janoff
March 11, 2013: Beginning next week, Charles Barkley will be part of the combined CBS-Turner Sports broadcasting team covering the NCAA Div. I men's basketball tournament. Barkley, an NBA Hall of Famer who recently celebrated his 50th birthday by appearing on The Price Is Right, and who stars alongside Alec Baldwin in a new multi-media campaign for Capital One, held court Monday at a March Madness media session in New York under the auspices of CBS and Turner.
• Which teams will be in the Final Four this year?
Charles Barkley: The field is wide open. There are some teams that should be there but I won't make a Final Four prediction right now. What fans want is for you to name their favorite team and to pick their favorite player. Then they all get mad at you for not picking their favorite team. But that's not what's stopping me [from predicting the Final Four]. In past years there have been teams that separated themselves and stand out. Right now, it's wide open.
• You are now entering the third season as an analyst for the NCAA men's basketball tournament in addition to your work as an analyst for NBA on TNT. What's the hardest part of that?
CB: The hardest part for any former player is transitioning to the media side. You have to comment on players and coaches you know. That doesn't stop me from expressing my opinions. But I'm not calling out these college kids, who work hard to get into the Tournament. Some of the other [Tournament analysts] watch 100 games or more during the season. I watch a lot of college basketball; I know the teams and players. But I can't say I have that level of knowledge about every team and every kid.
• What would you like to cover other than basketball?
CB: The Olympics are cool. I'd love to cover the Olympics. If you haven't been to the Olympics, it's much different than it is on television. It's a really cool event. Three years ago I had never been to a Final Four game. Now I have and it's a great experience. It would be the same with the Olympics. I wouldn't want to act like I was a guy who knew all about it, but it might be fun having me do bobsled or something like that. Wait, that's the Winter Olympics. I'd want to cover the Summer Olympics, go to Rio for 2016. [Laughs.]
• Some athletes have been in the news recently for the wrong reasons. As a former athlete, does anything surprise you?
CB: You never really know what's going on inside an athlete's mind. His motivation for why or why not some people do things or why they react the way they do. Watching Oscar Pistorius, it was amazing to see what he did [in the Olympics]. But you couldn't predict he would be in the situation he's now facing [murder charges regarding the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp]. Lance Armstrong is a friend of mine, a casual friend. Did I know he was cheating? No. Was I surprised? In that sport, it is what it is.
• What about the situation regarding Manti Te'O?
CB: If I'm his college coach, and he tells me that his girlfriend just died, I'm saying, 'Let's go to the funeral. What are you doing at practice?' They knew something.
• You just shot a series of commercials with Alec Baldwin for Capital One. How was that experience?
CB: Working with him was a lot of fun. He's a great guy.
• Anybody ask yet what's in YOUR wallet [the tagline for Capital One marketing]?
CB: No one. But the commercials just came out so I figure I will get asked.
• Can I see what's in your wallet?
CB: Do I know you?
CB: Then no! [Laughs.]
Editor's note: CBS and Turner Sports coverage of the 2013 NCAA Div. I Men's Basketball Tournament, which will air on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, begins March 17 on CBS with Selection Sunday. The First Four will air on truTV March 19-20. The second and third rounds will air across all four networks March 21-24. The Sweet 16 and Final Eight will air March 28-31. The Final Four will air exclusively on CBS April 6 and April 8 from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.