Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ode to the NCAA Tournament

Everyone's turned in their brackets in the office pool (except for those last-minute stragglers). Anticipation is at a fever pitch.

What makes this tournament the greatest event in American sports today? Everyone can feel like they are a part of the action. The so-called experts are oftentimes outdone by the casual fan who couldn't locate schools like Winthrop and Belmont on a map if their life depended on it. Because of your bracket, you've got a real rooting interest in all the games, not just the ones in which your team is playing. And if your team is in the tournament, you'll justify any reason to take that team all the way to the Final Four or beyond, no matter how implausible it may seem. But hey, as George Mason showed last year, that kind of blind faith isn't as misplaced as it used to be.

Where else but the NCAA Tournament can a matchup between Butler, a small school in Indiana, and Old Dominion, a small school in Virginia, be so highly anticipated? Even if those teams probably have little shot at making the Final Four, they can still cling to just that - their fighting chance. Because it's single-elimination, you always have hope that any given day you walk on the court, you can walk back out a step closer to the ultimate prize. And hope in sports is a powerful thing. Hope doesn't just make for a nice story - it helps you win games.

So welcome to the people's tournament. Soak in the 32 games over the next 2 days, because there's nothing like it on a scale as grand as this.

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