|Players for the #15 seed Middle Tennessee State basketball team celebrate|
their first-round upset of #2 seed Michigan State in the NCAA tournament.
photo from USA Today
Not so much as a fan: First, I'd rather play than watch; second, I don't follow any particular team; and, unlike about half of the American population, I have never filled out a bracket.
But then there is March Madness. Even the most casual observers can't avoid the annual fever that overtakes the country, as NCAA basketball goes all out for its national tournament, and everybody is talking about Cinderellas, dynasties, and bracket-busters.
Recent years have seen the Madness get better and better, as lesser-known programs build success on the regional level and then shock the college hoops world with surprising runs to the second and third rounds of the tournament (or beyond). Despite the politics behind selection and seeding, and the inherent unfairness of the bracket system that always pits the highest-ranked teams against the lowest-ranked ones, parity and upsets are becoming wonderfully common.
Sports at this level are always fun to watch, whatever the game, because you see top talent giving it their very best for high stakes. The built-in drama of the madness of March adds emotion and excitement to the experience, and generates great stories. For me, whether it's hockey, soccer, golf, tennis, or baseball - men or women - playoff sports are always worth watching (even football, which never quite holds my attention otherwise).
But hoops is the best. And here's why:
- Constant action (also offered by hockey and soccer)
- A lot of scoring (the lack of which is the chief drawback of the other two sports named in #1)
- Whole team involved in almost every play
- All players must contribute on both offense and defense
- Time pressure
- Skills, skills, skills (you can specialize in basketball, say as a three-point shooter, but nowhere near as much as in baseball and football)
- Sheer athletic ability (ever seen a hoopster with a huge gut?)
As I am a reluctant TV viewer (who, by personal decision, watched none at all from 1971 through 1984, and have never subscribed to cable), it takes a lot to make me sit on the couch for more than a half-hour - something like Breaking Bad, or Downton Abbey - but I'll sit there today for hours, just as I did yesterday and the day before, and the night before that getting way too little sleep for a proper Friday at work, and I'll do it again next weekend, and so on. Until the Madness ends.
Because it's that good.