Choose Your Madness
This is the easiest call of the year.
Let’s see, which would I rather follow, March Madness or NFL Madness? A bunch of energized, excited kids playing for the pure fun of it, or a group of millionaires and billionaires unable to decide how to divide up $9.3 billion?
The basketball dreamers from all the Old Dominions and Belmonts and Woffords, or the spoiled jocks and greedy, arrogant owners of the richest organization in sports?
The wild, happy enthusiasm of all the college kids who will come out in droves to cheer on their teams, or the stern, humorless lawyers who will be emerging out of those gray buildings to give us the grim news that no progress has been made?
The madness of this March arrives at the perfect time. It will help us not only escape the horrible news that keeps flickering onto our flat screens from Japan, it will also drown out the sourness emanating from all the big money players who are threatening to close down the 2011 pro football season, arguing over billions while folks across the country can barely afford to fill up their gas tanks.
Tell me, would you rather watch San Diego State try for the impossible, or Jerry Jones add to his already inflated bank account? Would you rather root for little Indiana State, or wonder how those poor quarterbacks with their $20 million-a-year salaries are going to survive?
College basketball has plenty of faults, but for three giddy weeks in March, the NCAA Tournament captures the country like no other event in the calendar year.
So get out your brackets, sharpen your pencils (never use a pen; you always have to erase a few times, at least) and get ready. Here are a few tips from somebody who has dribbled down this road more times than he cares to admit:
— When in doubt, go for the better coach, not necessarily the better players. Above all, this is a coach’s tournament. The good ones always know how to get it done.
— Never pick a team that doesn’t have a quality point guard. Controlling the tempo is everything in the tournament. You can’t win without a steady, experienced hand at the wheel.
— You rarely can get a home court, but you can get a home region. Watch for the good teams who have a chance to play an hour or two away from their campus. Their fans can make a big difference.
— Solid seniors can often be more effective than flashy freshmen. You want kids who have been to the dance before. Teams that have learned how to play together can survive longer than those selfish 18-year-olds who all want to play one-on-one.
Most important, take the time to look around, soak it all in and smile. The wonderful drama, the last-second shots, the delicious tension and, above all, the crazy, unpredictable finishes.
This is what sports are supposed to be about. Enjoy every sweet, delicious minute of it.
It’s the best possible way to tell the NFL what it can do with its silly threats of strikes and lockouts.
— STEVE BISHEFF