As I watched the Championship weekend games, and all the hype and analysis of who will get into the magical 64 (Yeah, I know it's 65, but I never liked that change)...I started wondering..."What about the tournament gets everyone so excited?" More to the point, why are those first 2 days of the tournament the greatest 2 days in sports? It took me all of about 5 minutes to have several theories lined up in my head...all of them valid, and all of them a part of the larger answer...but really the whole question boils down to one thing...
What does that mean? The answer is simple. Take 2 days, pack them wall to wall with games...32 to be exact...but don't stop there, make them all dramatic, meaningful games. There is no other time in sports where you can sit on your couch...or a friends couch...or a bar stool...or an office chair...and soak in the sheer volume of games that the first 2 days of the tournament offer.
The 2 things that come the closet? Any NFL Sunday, and New Years day...full slates of football. The big difference? Well, most NFL Sundays are full of a lot of bad football, highlighted with 1 or 2 good games...which most of the time you won't be able to see live because it's not featured in your area. New Year's day? Well, unless you goto the school, who really cares about a bunch of 2nd class bowls? It's the nasty secret of the Bowl Championship series...the "other" bowl games just don't pack the same punch anymore.
But in the Tournament...well, you have 32 games over 2 days. Every one of them do or die. A large majority coming down to the final minutes...every play becoming important. Throw into that an extra helping of David beating Goliath, and you have a heart pounding 2 days of sports. But to end there would be an injustice...
The other part of this equation is that due to popularity of the office pool, everyone has something at stake those first 2 days. Whether it's bragging rights, $10, free lunch, some Viagra, or $10k...something is on the line for you...and that makes all the drama even that much more exciting. Is there a better feeling during the tournament than watching an upset you picked? Or a worse feeling than watching your tournament champ lose in the first round? It's all possible in the first round of the tournament.
Nah, the tournament has always been one of my favorite times of the year...
From sneaking an old Black and White TV up to my room so I could watch the late games in Jr. High.
To huddling around a radio in the back of class in High School, or hitting up other students and even the strategic teachers for scores and info between classes. I even remember one basketball nut teacher who let us watch a tournament game in class...thanks, Mr. Tomski.
To cutting all my classes in college for those first 2 days, so that I could sit in my buddies room, drinking and watching the drama unfold.
To getting the first 2 days off from work and throwing a 2 day tournament party...which meant bloody mary's for the early games....beers the rest of the day...the grill constantly going...brackets filled out at the door, and shots done for every incorrect pick...it was a great way to take in the fun. Ah, the first few years out of college...you have some money, but still have the college mentality...
To following the games on the PC at work...sneaking out for an early lunch at a sports bar...and then turning it into a late lunch as well...and eventually having to go out for "coffee" again...at the same sports bar...hey, a working stiff has to catch the games some how.
The tournament has it all...all the drama, games, and personal investment a sports fan could want. It is one of the most perfect events in sports...but it is not without its issues. Believe me, there aren't many, but I would be a jerk not to mention the few blemishes...
The Presence of Dickie V - Much like the NFL draft brings Mel Kiper Jr into the spotlight...during the tournament we have to listen to the idiotic ramblings of Dickie V...his schtick is old and tired, and he's one of the most biased broadcasters in sports. Stick a sock in it Dickie.
The need to show #1 seed first round games - This always confuses me why these games are always the choice as the national games for those time slots...these are always the most boring game out there. On the rare occasion that a 16 plays hard, fine break us into the game...but outside of that, show us a game that promises to be a nail bitter.
The play in game - Does anyone watch this? Outside of the 2 teams that are in it...does anyone even realize that it's happening? It's a device of the large conferences to squeeze one more ‘big time" school into the bracket instead of "wasting" the spot on another little guy. Sorry, but losing a BCS school that was on the fringe, over putting a small school that is getting it's only shot at glory into the big dance...well that's just heartless. Kill this thing off, it's just a waste. One of the worst moves in NCAA history.
See, not all that much to complain about...and the complaints that do exist are akin to your wife liking the last homemade cookie so you won't eat it...hey, you're still going to eat the damn thing, it's just too good not to. And besides, it's just "wife spit"...you've had plenty of dealings with that...yeah, it's kind of gross on the cookie, but still, it's nothing you haven't dealt with before.
As we move past Selection Sunday, and the tournament draws closer...here are some things to think about...maybe even to answer here...
What do you love about the Tournament?
What is the "wife spit" on the tournament for you?
What is the craziest thing you've done to catch the first round of the Tournament?