Thursday, March 15, 2007

Another Reason To Skip Work -or- Sports for Laymen

Seems like there are pretty much two things going on the world right now that the Scooter Libby trial is over. One is South By Southwest, or as some like to call, I think erroneously, SXSW. Really, that should be written S x SW, if at all, but not at all, preferably. The other is Division One NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. This is, by far, or, um, XFar, the more important of the two.

Just to get it out of my system, though, why do bands like Sunburned Hand of Man play South By Southwest? They're never going to sign to a label, they don't need industry exposure - what the fuck are they doing there? I assume there's a good reason, cause there has to be, but it certainly isn't apparant to me. But hey, like I said, South By Southwest, not important. Ok.

I figure there are only a handful of sporting events non-sports fans, which are not to be confused with non sports-fans, will be able sit through and will benefit, in some perhaps extremely marginal way, from sitting through. Olympics for the whole national pride deal, Super Bowl for the commercials, World Cup because it's fucking boss and anyone who can't see that is a dumbass (this one is obviously up for debate but based on personal feelings I am unable to leave it out of a list like this one), and finally the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

I realize the tournament is long. Maybe not as long as the Olympics or even the World Cup, but it's pretty long. It happens at wierd hours, involves tons and tons of people most people have never and will never hear of, is involved with the fascio-liberal academic system, whatever your complaints about it in theory, there are ways that this thing can emotionally effect anyone who opens up to it. And, for the following reasons, it is way easier than any other sporting event to open up to.

College basketball is bite sized. Two twenty minute halves. Games are over in less than 90 minutes. There is very little time commitment involved in watching one of these games. If the game is uninteresting in the first half, turn it off straight away. No reason to mess around, check back in twenty minutes. Cause with this tournament, those twenty minutes are actually meaningful. Twenty minutes at the Super Bowl is, like, the length of the gap between coherent John Madden sentences. In this tournament, especially for the first few days when there are four games going on at any given time, you don't need to wait for anything. Often CBS even does your job for you, only showing the game that is interesting at that particular moment. Do you live in Columbus? Is Ohio State up by 40 points? You'll be watching the last minute of a tie game between Louisville vs. Iowa State. I dare you, sit down for half an hour tomorrow with CBS on, and you'll see something exciting.

College basketball players are bite sized. With the exception of some unnaturally composed kids, Shane Battier comes to mind, (and some astonishingly old and bald ones [Brian Cardinal]) most college basketball players are basically college kids, and they aren't expected to act like adults. They aren't expected to really go to college either, especially, but in terms of maturity they are college kids. This makes it extremely easy to empathize with them. They will cry, and not just on the court, they will break down in press conferences! They will throw things! Even moreso with kids from smaller schools, poorer schools, people with go batshit insane over this in a way that is totally different from they way people go batshit for other sporting events.

For purposes of illustration: you have a Champions League soccer match. People from Spain and England gather around the stadium grounds to punch each other, knock over a car, unsheath some knives and get gassed by mounted policemen with riot shields. This happens regardless of outcome. With even a tournament final in college basketball you also get a huge riot - but it happens, necessarily, at a location detached from the location of the real action. As these games always take place on neutral territory inaccessible to most of the team's supporters, they don't destroy the actual scene of the crime, they destroy their home campus out of joy. There's a lot of tradition with rioting in soccer, which makes it feel like those European louts are just going through the motions. In basketball I like to think of rioting as a more spontaneous expression of youthful exuberance and confused ecstasy. Isn't that, after all, what college is all about?

Getting down to brass tacks, there are too many points to cover when it comes to why this tournament is alone in its status of greatness as a sporting event. We could get into why nobody really cares who wins, why the underdog means more here than anywhere else (outside of, perhaps, the Olympics), why the monolithic and obsolete style of TV coverage actually enhances the experience of watching the games, but I don't know why we would. Not when there's only :30 left in the Xavier-BYU game.

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