Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Top 5: Getting in Tournament mode

The NCAA Tournament (always capitalized) tipped off in earnest. You're been up nights trying to figure out which 10 seed might make it to the Sweet Sixteen (Michigan, maybe Minnesota with Toronto's Devoe Joseph), strip-mined The Wages of Wins for pearls of wisdom, maybe said to hell with it and picked teams based on who has a funnier nickname, although none have anything on the one matchup in the women's NCAAs between South Dakota State (the Jackrabbits) and Texas Christian (the Horned Frogs).

You're wrong if you think this is all about knowing which team doesn't have an adequate backup centre if their best big man gets in early foul trouble, although that might help you fill out your bracket. March Madness is not an event. It's an attitude.
  1. Re-read portions of Will Blythe's To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry.

    Granted, Blythe probably went a little far trying to claim that there's no internecine hatred like Duke-Carolina internecine hatred. However, it's brilliant and it gets to the heart of why people follow sports, to rationalize irrational loathing.

    Duke has never done you any wrong, yet you hate them and hate yourself for picking them to reach the Elite Eight. You might not watch NCAA Division 1 hoops all season (especially since the 35-second shot clock makes for a slower-paced game to Canadian eyes which have got used to the 24-second shot clock in the CIS), but when you see Duke, you're seeing the whole bile-pushing line of succession, from J.J. Redick back to Wojo to Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner. Who's playing for them now doesn't seem to matter much.

  2. Re-read Chuck Klosterman's essay "33" (anthologized in Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs). It's about the 1980s Celtics-Lakers rivalry, but it gets to the core of basketball. Relating to the sport comes down to black-and-white philosophies. You need your absolutes (do you favour a team with great bigs, or one with savvy senior guards) if you're going to be able to fill out your bracket by noon ET tomorrow.
    QUESTION #8: Should capital punishment be legal?
    Laker People say no, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a human rights activist who would question the validity of any practice that essentially replicates the original crime. Celtic People say yes, because anybody who's looked into Larry Bird's eyes knows he's a killer.
    This might embarrass both the person it's about and the person who said it, but a friend said that he knew the Carleton had it in the bag at the CIS Final 8 when he saw that one of the more important Ravens had noticeably deep-set eyes. He went on to explain that men have deeper-set eyes than women due to the warrior culture, when people fought with swords. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, this would mean Carleton's path to this national title started back in 1066 on some battlefield in England.

  3. Go on YouTube and watch as many One Shining Moments as you can. You will cry. It's OK to cry.
  4. Watch Hoosiers. It's a CRTC and FCC mandate that some cable channel must being airing it late at night on the eve of the Thursday first-round games. It was Reagan-era schmaltz, but it was good schmaltz.
  5. Stay up half the night preparing arguments for why the Canadian university champion should get a NCAA bid (or saying, hey, our tournament is good enough). More than one Canadian hoops devotee has said it would be great if the CIS champs could be given a spot in the NCAAs, not as one of the no-hope 16 seeds, but maybe as a 12 seed against a team such as Utah, seeded fifth in the Midwest Regional.

    Imagine the interest if some wild Canadian horde were allowed inside the velvet rope. Imagine the pressure on the U.S. coaches and players to maintain the NCAA's superiority.
Do all that, and you'll be ready.

(Classic To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever moment on the phone with my mom earlier this week: "Did you see the Jets beat out the Raiders?" she said, referring to two area Junior C hockey teams, the Amherstview Jets and Napanee Raiders. Neither of us have ever attended a game, so taking glee in the Raiders' dust-biting might seem like bad form.

However, it made sense. The Sagers are Ernestown people, not Napanee people, no matter what our mailing address says. As kids, we played our minor hockey and ball for Ernestown Township, since it was closer to house and most of all, not Napanee, which tended to take youth sports a little too seriously. All five of us attended Ernestown Secondary School and played various sports, although it was good that my brother got to play a little football for the Napanee Golden Hawks. The lines are clearly delineated.)

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