Thursday, March 15, 2012

Let The Second Round Begin

Okay, why would it be so bad to call the games today and tomorrow the opening round and the games that preceded them the play-in round?

Why does this have to be the second round and then the next set of games have to be the third round? Seems somewhat silly, no?

As you might have heard, the most over-analyzed, over-discussed sporting event in American culture gets going for real today.

And then once it starts, it serves as a reminder why there's nothing quite like it.

The NCAA basketball tournament suffers through months and months of meaningless "bracketology," not to mention the beating to death of the actual brackets once they're announced. People can't get enough of whom so-and-so thinks is the most likely 12 to beat a five, or the big sleeper for the Sweet 16.

Everywhere you turn, there's another "expert" offering up opinion that anyone who watches TV can match. Another "expert" referring to the "kid from St. Bonaventure" or "the guard from San Diego State," as if they know or have ever seen any of these people before.

In the next breath, there's another coach, being hailed as a genius for taking this team to the tournament this year, when for the most part, he either got hot for three days in his conference tournament or didn't mess up a good situation in a power conference.

As Pete Carril used to say, genius is a word that should be reserved for "a guy like Einstein."

TigerBlog isn't sure why that line always fascinated him. It has something to do with the fact that he didn't say "Einstein," he said "a guy like Einstein."

Anyway, the NCAA tournament is worse than the Super Bowl in terms of pre-event hype. And yet, just like the Super Bowl, all the hype can't ruin the tournament once it gets going.

The problem with college basketball is that it's the only major sport where the coaches and refs are more well-known than the players. Go ahead, name 10 players in the NCAA tournament, excluding Harvard.

If you can name 10, can you name 10 more?

Coaches? Everyone knows them. The game is all about the coaches, or at least protecting the myth that somehow these are super genius coaches who pull magical strings that others can't.

TB hates to break it to anyone, but he could coach at Kentucky or Carolina or Syracuse.

Gary Walters weighed in on the topic of John Calipari and his one-and-done philosophy at Kentucky last week in a USA Today article.

As for TB, that - and the appearance of Calipari and Jim Boeheim on ESPN after the selection show - got him to wondering why it is that there seems to be so little interest in the day-to-day slop of sports - college basketball and others - on the part of the general public.

He's not talking about things like Jerry Sandusky or Plaxico Burress or George Huguely. Those types of situations clearly generate attention.

No, TB is talking the less visible, the less spectacular. He's talking about all of the stories that come out that barely are worth the time to write the headlines, about drugs or academic fraud or poor graduation rates or one-and-done.

TB was talking about this with a co-worker on the squash court yesterday.

The question is this: Do people not care about all that stuff because all they care about are the games themselves, or are they just desensitized to it all?

TB's co-worker said that he has a wife, a child, another on the way, a mortgage and job and all. He just wants to be entertained by sports.

TB? he's not sure.

He thinks there's a level of desensitizing that has gone on, and this is the result. He thinks that the media is a big culprit in it, because of the fawning - or is it fearful? - way that it usually covers big-time football and men's basketball coaches.

TB is still waiting for the press conference where these coaches are started to be called on all this, when media members ask legitimate questions about off-field conduct or athletic/educational balances or conference realignments and all of it.

Will it happen? Who knows.

TB is as phony as anyone else. He'll still watch the tournament, root for Georgetown, root against a team he always roots against.

Still, a part of him will be glad that he works at a place that doesn't usually have to clean up the slop.

Princeton and the Ivy League aren't above it all.

They're just a little different.

It's a difference TB grew to appreciate a long time ago.

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