Gary Johnson moments after the no call on the manhandle of a foul against Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
I've been wanting to write this post ever since I started seeing all the headlines pop up a few weeks ago calling March Madness the "greatest sporting event in America" or "the best event in sports." Last year, SportsIllustrated.com's Michael Rosenberg wrote an article backing up this claim. His two main reasons: 1. It's never overhyped. 2. It never disappoints.
My response to that: So.
Don't get me wrong; I get caught up in this thing like everyone else. It's cool to know that games are taking place all over the country, and schools, players and fans are all focused on the same goal at the same time. Most of us would cut at least one-tenth of our pinky off to have a tournament in college football. But to all you out there who agree with Rosenberg, you're just flat out wrong. Now, is it the best championship tournament, from start to finish, in sports. Probably, yes.
My dilemma with posting this is the timing. I didn't want to post when the tourney started. That would be going too much against the grain. And I didn't want to post while Texas was still in the thing because everyone's focus is there (including mine). But if I post after Texas loses, I look like the kid who didn't get picked to play kickball and walks away mumbling, "I didn't want to play stupid kickball anyhow." So, hopefully the kick to the gut we all got last week has worn off a bit and I don't look like a winer. I know many of you will disagree with me on these points, and that's cool. But I just needed to get them out there. Here are 10 reasons why March Madness is not the greatest event in sports:
10. Too many teams. Seriously, the thing starts with Spare U vs. North Southeastern State Episcopal College in a "play-in" game. Admit it, you know this tarnishes the tournament's rep. It panders to that "everyone's a winner just for showing up" mentality that is reserved for preschool sports. While it is cool to know that there are 32 games going on all over the country in one tournament, 64 teams is just too many.
9. So many players chase NBA money. I don't blame players for jetting to the NBA after the one mandatory college season. If that's their long-term goal, then go get it. But such great turnover in college hoops really lessens the significance of the tournament. And all we hear about is where these guys will be drafted, as if college hoops and the tourney are understood to be a means to a much greater and more significant end.
8. Fans don't get a chance to really know these players. They're in and out. We'll always claim Kevin Durant, but how much time do we spend thinking and talking about the great teams we would have had if he stayed for three or four years? There's no such thing as a rebuilding year. You have to win with what you have now, and that doesn't allow the fans to really know and appreciate the really good players.
7. We're cheering for uniforms. The NCAA Tournament is about the hot team that's able to put it all together at the end to make a great run. The good players are more like hired guns passing through on their way to the pros. No matter who's wearing your schools uniform, you cheer for them as if you've watched them play for years.
6. There are few knowledgeable fans watching. How many people watching the tournament regularly keep up with the sport during the regular season? I bet it's less than 25 percent. Can it really be the greatest event in sports if the vast majority of the people watching are tuned out to the sport for four months prior? Isn't that like my wife wanting to watch the Super Bowl just because everyone else is?
5. The really good teams have so many more chances to trip up. I'll contradict myself here a little, because I love tournaments, and I firmly believe that championships are about winning the day. Sometimes teams just have bad games. Tough. That's the way it is. But with a six-round tournament, there are so many more changes for "the better" team to lose and the "not better team" to just get a lucky break. And as we've seen this year, there are more chances for the refs to forget how to count to five. And to forget that you actually CAN still call a foul in the last seconds.
4. Upsets? Really? The media loves to hype all these so-called "upsets" in the first two rounds. Since when is a seven seed over a 10 seed an upset? There are 64 freakin' teams in the thing! You think the selection committee might have seeded one or two teams a little high or low? So stop acting like you're surprised by all these upsets. It happens every year and it just absolutely beats my skull in. Call me when a 16 beats a 1.
3. The blatant East Coast bias. Eleven Big East teams made the tourney this year. Unbelievable. Embarrassing, really.
2. Brackets. Good Lord, can we tone it down with the brackets? Fill out one and be done with it. I feel like I have a bracket etched into my eyeballs the entire month of March. You can't go to a website or open up a sports magazine without seeing someone's freakin' bracket. Bracketology. Bracket Buster. Bracketville. SHUT UP!
1. And the No. 1 reason March Madness is not (and can never be) the greatest event in sports: It's not football.