Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March Madness: Weekend 1

Possibly the most amusing thing I heard this weekend was some guy swearing that President Obama had gotten on the horn and used his power to force the refs to make calls against Robert Morris, in order to protect the sanctity of the Presidential Bracket.

Seriously. You can't make this stuff up.

Unfortunately, you don't need to make up some of the other blithering that goes on around this time of year. Now that the dust has settled on all the whining about seeding - and let's face it, if they got it perfectly right, the angry Joe Lunardis of the world would be out of luck and out of work because their primary role is to complain about these bits of floating nonsense - it's time for all-new inanity to take over. The major throughline today seemed to be focused not on Kentucky's new status as the overall favorite or the remarkable runs by teams like Cornell and UNI, but rather that "having so many low seeds advance was bad for the tournament". Because, you know, nobody was going to watch a Sweet 16 game that didn't have the big names in it. Xavier's made the second weekend for something like thirty-seven years in a row? Doesn't matter. Cornell's a ridiculously good story - revenge of the nerds, "after this, nothing but babies and memories", the first Ivy to go this far since the days of Bird and Magic - but it doesn't matter. St. Mary's avenging last year's snub and Purdue overcoming the loss of Robbie Hummel (yes, I picked Siena in round 1) and Washington's sneaky-good run and...naah, not important. What matters is that the big names - UConn, UNC, Kansas, etc. aren't there.

Now, there are two lessons to be taken from this. One, it would have been relatively easy for those missing big names to be there. All they had to do was do what they were supposed to: win games. Sorry, the tournament is supposed to be about putting the best teams together, not the best ratings. That's what the BCS is for, after all.

The other lesson is that the mainstream sports media guys bitching and moaning about how the games aren't interesting now are doing themselves and their readers/listeners/viewers a disservice. UNI's played some pretty entertaining games. So has Purdue. So have the bulk of the surviving teams, marquee or otherwise. The smart play would be to seize the opportunity, talk up these new teams, and hopefully build nationwide interest in more teams going forward. The idiotic play is to bitch about how the tournament's no good without Carolina in it, discourage people from watching (because a game with Xavier in it can't possibly be interesting), and moan about the ratings. None of which, of course, has anything to do with the actual games, but all of which reinforces college basketball's insane football-driven caste system.

If I were running a station and one of my guys moaned about this stuff, I'd rip him a new one. Getting people interested in this stuff is better for fandom and better for business. Whining is the easy way out. I'd rather have them tell me what's exciting about what's coming up, instead of complaining that the easy story lines are gone.
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