Tonight is the final game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tourney. Oh, there’s been lots o’ b-ball watching in this house, especially in the man-cave. It really doesn’t matter who is playing (since the Badgers were knocked out early); we watch virtually all the games anyway, at least in DVR’d speed watch. I say “we” in a loose sense; I wander through, bearing snacks, and watch a bit if it is close. I’ll get sucked in to the experience. There is such intensity and emotion at the collegiate level, joy and tears and arms linked together on the bench. I love that part.
Professional sports just cannot compare. The Professor’s opinion is that the NBA is less interesting because the players don’t make many mistakes; the game just goes back and forth and back and forth. I think it is because there is, naturally, less passion for the game. Rare are the professionals in any field (or arena) that can maintain such a level of emotional intensity. Their heads would explode after while. They have to pace themselves for the long haul. (The NBA season does eventually end, right? Sometime in June? When did that happen?)
Plus, in the NBA, their mom isn’t always watching.
I know that the NCAA March Madness games are filled with brilliant moments of athletic prowess, coaching strategy, and tetris-tight teamwork. It is so exciting when the lead trades back and forth, and the crowd is cheering wildly in that rabid college-allegiance frenzy that reminds us why fan is short for fanatic. I don’t get as caught up in the game itself, and certainly not in the outcome, as I do in the emotion. For every spectacular play by the offense or the defense, I see the elation or defeat on the player’s face… and I think of this young man’s mom. Or their step-mom, or aunt, or grandmother — whoever the woman is that loves this boy like a son, and watches his face while the game goes on all around him. When there are 10 seconds left in a tie game and the player is at the free throw line, I just about go nuts thinking about how his mom must feel. My heart is in my throat. In a fun way.
I realize I may not be a typical sports fan. I think most people care about how the game ends, and they remember who was the champion, and the final score. I rarely remember any of those things, even though I had been watching the game very intently. Perhaps my game score hard-drive is full with other important numbers like the birthdays of people in my 6th grade class. I think that my interests lie in a different aspect of the game, the one that is the interplay between young people so full of dreams. And their moms.
I always have a team to root for! If my college (Vanderbilt) isn’t playing (and they didn’t make the NCAA or NIT this year) then I root for the SEC Conference because if they do well, it gives Vanderbilt an excuse for not making it. (i.e. they had a really tough schedule.) If there’s not an SEC team in the game, then I pull for the underdog because, hey, upsets are exciting to watch!
So needless to say, the way the favorites won the men and women’s NCAA tournaments didn’t thrill me.
But at least now I can start watching baseball!