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“And when I look back at all the crazy fights we had,

Like some kind madness, was taking control.”

—From the song “Madness”, by Muse.

It is March. Let’s dive right into the insanity.

— March Madness is the sobriquet that is synonymous with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. A time when most Americans take a rooting interest in schools and players they were not familiar with before February 28th.

Growing up with Villanova and Temple universities often making runs deep into “The Dance”—USU Aggies fans never got to experience a “run” under so-called legendary coach Stew Morrill—it was easy for me to become enamored with the Tournament. Then, like with most things, over exposure ruined something simple.

Now, all anyone cares about is how the games affect their “brackets”. Everyone has “action” on the games. It is not good enough to just enjoy young men trying their hardest to win games for the glory. Nope. They have to help us win our office pool.

On Tuesday night, BYU and Ole Miss played what can only be described as a fantastic basketball game. Both teams played an up tempo brand of basketball that brought out the best in each other. And while I felt immense glee at watching BYU choke a 17 point halftime lead, I must tip my hat to the vanquished for their exciting brand of basketball.

But reading through BYU’s twitter feed dispirited me. An unscientific reckoning suggested that ⅔ of the Tweets were people upset at having their “brackets busted”. Firstly, if you lost a pool in which you have to pick the outcome of 67 games on the opening night, chances are you had no shot at winning. Secondly, that game was everything that is great about sports. You could not opine on the entertainment those young men just provided to you?

I have quit playing fantasy sports. I have vowed to not bet money on pools of any kind in the future. Currently, the only sports bet I have is a beer at the White Owl with a close friend regarding the NBA…a league I do not even care about.

The wager is that I have the Golden State Warriors or the Toronto Raptors to win the NBA Championship. He has the rest of the league. I like my odds.

If I lose, I will pay off the beer and spend time with a good friend. I will not curse out anyone or allow the “action” to influence my mood. If I win, it will be the best tasting beer in the entirety of my life.

Fantasy sports and office pools dominate the sports landscape. It shouldn’t. Just enjoy the damn games.

— My picks in November for the best teams in college basketball were Kentucky, Villanova, Wisconsin and Iowa State. The first three have gained “one seeds” in the Tournament and Iowa State is a “3 seed” in the region where Duke is the top seed. I might have actually nailed one of my notoriously awful “fearless predictions”.

— This past weekend I watched ESPN’s brilliant documentary “I Hate Christian Laettner”. During his time at Duke, college basketball was going through what I consider to be a golden era. It was easy to hate Duke. I didn’t. I liked that they played within a system that valued teamwork over individual effort. I liked that Duke was a tough school to attend. UNLV and others were often on probation for cheating. Duke played by the rules and still excelled.

Laettner talked a lot of smack; but he was often the target of dirty play. All he did was dominate. Maybe he could have done so with a little more humility; or, at the least, ignored the bile spewed at him. It is hard to fault young men in their early 20’s for not having the foresight to see how their actions affect their reputation. All I know is that I watched many Duke basketball games during those years and Christian Laettner silenced his critics by winning.

— Since I mentioned bad decisions made by youth, it should be noted that as a kid I was a fan of both Duke basketball and BYU football. Things change.

As my defense for this, I offer the rhetorical question asked by Benedick in William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”:

Doth not the appetite alter?

— Las Vegas put the over/under of “lifelong” Seattle Seahawks fans rooting for Kentucky to win the Tournament at 82%.

— Who picks the locations for the regional games of the Tournament? Omaha, Nebraska? Really? Next year one of the sites is Des Moines, Iowa. Whaaaaaaa? I guess Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was booked. I would be fine with these locations if they sent all the so-called “bubble” teams to play there.

“The good news is that you did indeed make it into the Tournament. But you have to go to Omaha.”

— Not too long ago when you watched the Tournament you only got to see the game your local CBS affiliate provided for you. Now, thanks to the “family of networks” system, you can watch any game you desire…so long as you know what channel is carrying your targeted game.

There is an unfortunate dark side to this luxury. CBS has put many of the games on Tru TV. This channel is everything that is wrong about American culture. Scrolling through Tru TV’s list of programming makes me rethink my opinion about eugenics.

It is no secret that reality-based shows plague the airwaves. But Tru TV is one of those networks that does not even attempt to offer one single program for people with an IQ over 85. Looking at the casts of these shows reminds me of most of the losers I see on the Cache County Sheriff Office’s mug shot page. If you watch even one show on Tru TV, I must ask you for a favor. Please, do not procreate.

— Some events in our life just make being an American fun. The “Dance” fits neatly into that category. There are many things wrong with American sports culture at the moment. Quite a few of those problems will be on display in the next few weeks. I am both a cynic and a sentimentalist. I can put aside the bad and enjoy the good. College-aged kids trying to grab one moment of immortality by playing a game is worthy of our time.

Embrace the madness.

By Staff