The Ethereal Beauty Of The NCAA Tournament
By Will Pennington - Millennial Milk
Unlike the pro-game, which is relatively easy to keep track of (only 30 teams, guys tend to stick around etc.), there are too many moving parts in the NCAA to really totally understand it in the moment. It’s only once it’s in the past that we can understand the implication of the tournament outcomes.
Any moment, any game, could be the last for that player, that coach, or even that team. In pro sports the best guys are back year after year. In college, just as you really start to love them they are gone.
Pundits use buzz words like “purity” or “love of the game” to describe why college basketball resonates in a unique way. I tend to think it is because of the fleeting nature of success on the collegiate level.
In life, we have a way of not realizing we are in the “good old days” as they happen. It is easy to take friends for granted, it’s easy to dream about tomorrow. It’s only years later looking back, that we realize those “were the days”.
It’s easy for fans to take success for granted. After a few years of making the tournament, the fans aren’t happy just being there anymore. They want wins. A Sweet Sixteen. They dream of cutting the nets down as they confetti drifts from the ceiling with the fight song playing.
But then a coach leaves, or a player graduates. Next year the arena doesn’t have the same magic. The crowd isn’t as loud as it used to be. On the bench are unfamiliar faces. And the fans reminisce about the way things used to be.
A lot has been written about the debate between Russell Westbrook and James Harden for MVP this season in the NBA, and people on both sides of the debate are passionate about their candidate and his case. Imagine the fervor that would surround this debate if the two were in college.
For the NBA fan there is always next season. If Russ doesn’t get his trophy this year, he will get other opportunities. The same is true of Harden. But if this was college, two players who transcended the game in such a way would be destined to leave. For the college fan there is no next year. The team they are watching will never exist again.
There is something quintessentially American about March Madness.
The Tournament brings us all together in what is perhaps the greatest of American pastimes…pretending to care about things we have absolutely no stake in.
We love to do this. We adopt pet causes, follow the personal lives of celebrities, and have heated debates about things like who deserves to win the NCAA Tournament.
We as Americans love to pontificate, and we love it especially the less we know about the subject. In this way, March Madness is a godsend. It allows us to pretend to understand something so impossibly complex as college basketball.
We talk at great lengths to anyone who will listen about who we think this year’s “Cinderella” will be. We might not be able to name 4 of the players, but we think they have a real shot at going to the final four.
We know we are all full of it when we talk about the tournament. It’s understood. There’s nothing wrong with it.
In fact, getting caught up, even if just for an instant in a game that shouldn’t concern us is magical. There’s something about rooting for a team in the tournament that lets you live in that moment with that team, living and dying with every shot.
It might not be your school, but for somebody these are the good old days. Being along for the ride isn’t just fun, it’s an American tradition.
Fill out a bracket, even if it’s late.
Grab some friends, put your phones away, and get lost in March Madness.
Enjoy the Good old days.