Archive for March 10th, 2005

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world

March 10, 2005

Last Thursday, the most wonderful thing happened. As I was flipping through the stations, I checked out my usual haunts, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNfinity, etc., when there it was, a spring training game between the Pirates and Yankees! No, I wasn’t excited because I’m a big Kip Wells fan, but because Spring training baseball is a sign that the long sporting winter was over, and one of the great seasons of a sports fan’s life was about to begin.

You see, the sports fan is a creature of cycles, and his life mirrors the ebbs and flows of the sporting calendar. February is the dark month (unless the Winter Olympics happen to be on), that great bleak period between the Super Bowl and the start of Spring training. For the die hard sports junkie, there is only the NBA to provide some meager sustenance to pull us through. The two great pinnacles of the sport are October, when the NFL and College football are in full swing, and the Baseball postseason keeps us on the edge of our seats, and March. Though October is my favorite season, March is always especially sweet, because it rewards the sports fan for being patient through his dry season with the greatest spectacle in the sporting world, March Madness.

Yes, while spring training is nice, it’s main significance is as a sign, like the first leaves falling in autumn or the first flowers blooming in spring. It says to the sports fan, “awake from your slumber, the conference tournaments are about to begin.” And suddenly the sports fan is tuning in at midnight to ESPN to see if Gonzaga beat St. Mary’s (they did) or Oral Roberts backed up their regular season conference crown with a tournament bid (they didn’t). Do the Hogs have another miracle SEC title run in them (I doubt it) or will they be relegated to the NIT. Dicky V and Digger work overtime, and #1 seeds rise and fall as Selection Sunday approaches.

Then it’s time to fill out your bracket (or brackets as is usually the case) and join in your online and office pools. Who’s it going to be this year? Because you know it happens every year. Some 12 seed makes a run to the sweet 16. Some 1 seed gets knocked off in the second round and ruins any hope you had for your bracket. Some young coach will lead his team to an upset and himself to a major conference job, and some player will transform himself from a second round pick to a lottery pick. But who will it be?

You remember them don’t you? The Tulsa teams lead by Tubby Smith and Bill Self that seemed to claw their way into the Sweet 16. The Santa Clara squad that shocked Arizona. Last year’s Xavier squad that made it to the Elite Eight. Great performances by Wally Sczerbiak, Steve Nash, John Wallace, Antonio McDyess (and yes, Michael, Carmelo Anthony) that propelled their teams to improbable runs. And great moments like buzzer beaters from Tyus Edney, Mike Miller, and (sweetest of all) Scottie Thurman.

Then comes the ultimate question. Which of these teams has the magic to end their year with a 6-game winning streak? Will it be the favorite, like the year Duke won its second title or the year Kentucky fielded an NBA All-Star team and seemed to beat teams by an average of 50 points. Or will a talented team catch fire and pull an upset like Duke’s first title after taking down the UNLV juggernaut in the semifinals, or the 3-guard Arizona squad that shocked what everyone assumed were the superior Wildcats from Kentucky. Will there be magic for a coach like Roy Williams this year as there was for Jim Boeheim two years ago? Or will Krysziewski add another line to a resume that may be the best ever in college hoops?

The great thing is that no one knows for sure, not even Digger and especially not Dicky V (Coach K would already have more titles than Wooden if he were right every year). What is for sure is that the month will be filled with upsets, magical moments, and magical performances, and that it will never, ever disappoint. So go ahead and call in sick for next Thursday and Friday, heat up some Rotel, grab a tasty beverage, and sit back and enjoy the greatest spectacle sports has to offer.

Quick takes

MLB — who was the best pickup this offseason? Well, probably one of the New Yorkers (Johnson or Beltran), but don’t forget about Moises Alou in San Fransiso. He may be the laziest outfielder in baseball, but the guy can still rake, and hitting behind Bonds he may have about 200 RBI this year. NBA — Does Shawn Marion have an uglier shot than Bill Cartwright? Quite possibly. It’s almost as ugly as Steve Nash’s hair, and that’s ugly. NFL — Can anyone explain the salary cap to me? So, somehow the Titans are about $2 billion over the cap and have to release half their roster, but the Raiders, despite signing every aging free agent this side of Jim Thorpe the last couple of years still have the cap space to strenghten their Commitment to Excrement by signing Randy Moss and Lamont Jordan? College Hoops — Want someone to watch out for in this year’s tournament? If Vermont makes it in, keep an eye on Taylor Coppenrath. He’s about 6’8″ and can stroke it from long range, and I get a real Wally Sczerbiak vibe from him. Golf — Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are playing better than anyone in the world right now, and nothing could be better for the sport. These guys have more game and charisma than anyone, and watching them duke it out for some majors will be must see TV. Sorry, Vijay. Nascar — zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.