March Madness means must-watch television

I’m feeling the madness. And no, it’s not just because of the weather in Erie.

I’m talking about March Madness, a time of the year with more hype, more Cinderellas and more thrillers than any other sporting event.

“Well someone’s bracket picks must be doing well,” you might be thinking. Surprisingly, I’m out of the big cheese in both of my pool groups after I picked Missouri in one and Murray State in the other. I guess my tournament-pick accuracy comes as a warning to my considering a career in palm reading.

But I’m still watching just about every game, or I’ll have the tube on in the background while trying to be productive.

Why? Because each game is unpredictable. There is no science to picking games or guessing outcomes. No matter how many stats tip the odds in one direction, there’s no reason why one game can’t take players, coaches and fans on a completely different course than what was expected. A bad shooting night for the nation’s best can turn into a defensive battle, a free-throw contest or a 3-point shootout in the final minute with the underdog yipping for a victory.

Just ask Missouri, which became the fifth No. 2 seed in history to be ousted by a 15 seed, courtesy of Norfolk State.

Or Duke. Experience, number of championships and legacy all disappear when a new bracket is drawn up each year.

If you still don’t believe me when I say March Madness is the biggest sporting event out there, consider how many people take part in it, even in professional sports. There’s a commercial with three Phillies players leaning by the dugout with a tablet in hand watching the final seconds of a tournament game.

Celebrities fill out brackets, too. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees picked Kentucky to win it all. Rapper Lil’ Wayne and President Barack Obama both chose North Carolina as champions. Gold-medalist swimmer Michael Phelps chose Michigan to bring home the trophy. Even though Michigan lost in the second round to Ohio University, I wouldn’t blame Phelps for the poor prediction; he does have the Olympics in a few months, after all.

I’ll take March Madness over NBA action any day. Student players put in the effort without the signing bonuses, without the talk of “ring count” and without the petty player drama so common in the big leagues. The star on a college team is only legendary if he posts a double-double AND hits the game-winning shot.

More importantly, the losing team shows much more honest emotion in defeat. When Missouri’s Phil Pressey missed the last shot to keep his team in the tournament, it didn’t matter that he had scored 20 points. Pressey sat propped against the scorer’s table and pulled his jersey over his face. There’s no scapegoating, no name-calling, no idiocy as in pro ball.

That’s dedication. That’s passion. That’s basketball the way it should be played.

 

DAN KUBACKI

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