Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ought to be more to sports fandom than guessing when doing basketball brackets

I’ll be the first to admit that much of the appeal of filling out brackets for the NCAA Division I tournament for men’s basketball is lost on me.

The baseball fan in me thinks it’s ridiculous that college basketball now drags well into the baseball season (which begins April 1, compared to the April 8 date on which we’ll finally be done with what is supposed to be “March” Madness).

THEN, THERE’S THE fact that I attended a college that played Division III athletics. Which means as far as I’m concerned, the men’s basketball tourney began weeks ago.

Friday wasn’t the day that many schools (including the University of Illinois, the closest to a local rooting interest unless you count Valparaiso University in Indiana – which already has lost) began play. It was actually the day that we got to see which schools made it to the Final Four.

Including the prospects of Naperville-based North Central College, which Friday night took on Vermont-based Middlebury College. A part of me thinks we ought to be paying just as much attention to the Cardinals’ basketball program which, we must admit, is likely to advance farther in the Division III tourney than the Fighting Illini will make it at the Division I level.

Realize how painful it was for me to write that last sentence. Because I’m an alumnus of Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, whose team got beat a week ago by those same Cardinals 83-73.

I’M STILL SHUDDERING in disgust at the beating my alma mater’s team took in the first half, putting them too far behind to catch up in the second half (although they did come close at times). A “Sweet Sixteen” appearance sounds nice. But an “Elite Eight” one would have been more soothing. Nothing that happens in the Division I tourney is going to mean as much to me.

Now for those people who are about to start sending me all kinds of e-mail messages telling me that the Division I programs are just so much superior and involve schools that people have actually heard of, I’d say that’s nonsense.

I really doubt that most of the people now so eagerly filling out tournament brackets had any clue who the Iona Gaels were – prior to their taking on Ohio State University Friday night.

Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say I’ll root for Iona College based in New Rochelle, N.Y. (a community many people probably only think of as the home of the fictional Petrie family – remember the Dick Van Dyke show?). Solidarity amongst small schools.

BUT SOMEHOW, I suspect that Harvard University’s victory over New Mexico earlier this week was the major upset for this first round. A Buckeyes loss would truly be the evidence that life as we know it is over.

Not that I’m all that interested.

Like I already wrote, MY school is already out of the running. And I just don’t get people who pretend to be interested in college athletics when they don’t have any rooting interest for the particular school – either by having attending it or living in a nearby community.

I look at the brackets that say James Madison is playing Indiana, and some people get worked up over the possibility that the Hoosiers are potentially the best in the nation. I just see nothing, whether the Hoosiers whomp on the Dukes of Harrisonburg, Va., or not leaves me cold.

LIKE I WROTE before, maybe I’m just a bit too eager for baseball to begin.

I got a kick out of learning that we’re far enough into spring that the Mexican League season actually began Friday with the Tabasco Olmecas playing the Red Eagles of Veracruz – with the rest of the league’s seasons opening Saturday.

Not that I’m all that intrigued by Mexican League baseball. But it means we’re moving closer and closer to that date when those Arizona and Florida training camps shutter themselves for the year, and the regular season gets underway.

April 1, with the Kansas City Royals in Chicago and the Cubs taking a trip to Pittsburgh to play the Pirates – it sounds more intriguing to me than a tourney involving out-of-state schools that will still be a week away from completion.


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