|The Write Space and Time|
March 15, 2012 -- Basketball teams get nine lives. Well, 64 of us feel like really fortunate cats anyway. In Division I Basketball, you can trip and fall, you can stumble and face plant, and, in some instances, you can even rise back from the ledge of death, as long as your strength of schedule and your RPI line up. Pass the eye test, post the pedigree, and you can still live to play another day come March.
Is this a great country or what?
The media says those extra shots at life make the regular season of basketball irrelevant. They say our attendance numbers suffer as a result. Football coaches can't believe how lucky we are. And the teams upon whom the bubble burst deem the process flawed and the concept unforgiving. But you simply cannot argue with the appeal of the madness of March.
Advertise bowl games all you want -- folks in two camps get all wound up and posture and provoke -- but the rest of the country knows they're playing for third or fourth or 18th or 27th. There simply is no hope. It's factual to a fault. But when the NCAA tournament dance cards are handed out, all 64 teams on the floor have a dream. And the campuses and the cities and the towns they represent carry that dream around on a pillow like a crown. The race may not be wide open, but every single squad has a sliver of hope. And I want to know, seriously, does it get any better than that? Rhetorical question, of course; but if it does, I gotta tell you, I want in on it.
We've been dancing for 13 straight years. I still remember the euphoria of the first time our card was punched. We lost our collective minds and so did everyone even slightly connected to our program. Now it's expected. And I like that a lot. I'm actually very, very proud of that. But I don't ever want to become numb to the magic of it all. It's just way too fabulous of a concept to take for granted.
The first time we went to the NCAA tournament, we took pictures of everything. We stopped outside of West Lafeyette, Ind., and took pictures of the NCAA billboard. We photographed the gym and the court and the locker room and the logos. We bought one of every t-shirt they had on sale at the site and we giggled like kids in a candy store through all 14 meals we consumed at the Applebees across the parking lot from our hotel. Then when we won round two, thus earning a spot in the Sweet 16, the roof blew off the proverbial house. A live wire had been unleashed and we -- our program, our institution, our town, our state -- would never, in March, again be the same.
Going to the dance is kind of like traveling abroad. Your world gets bigger and ordinary things look different somehow. That's probably the very magic that makes March so mad. People get to believe that anything is possible as they live vicariously through a bunch of basketball teams who are given one last chance to get it right.
In a world where most people would give anything for one more shot, the concept of a 64-team tournament full of flawed tryers is just what the doctor ordered. And every man can find himself in a field of 64. So here we go! Download a little Steve Miller Band and "dance, dance, dance all night long!"
It just doesn't get much better than this.