I really love the NCAA Tournament. The first weekend (Thursday through Sunday) of the tourney is one of my favorite times of the year. And this comes from a guy whose interest level in college basketball (or any basketball, for that matter) is below average. Even, regrettably, my interest in Hawkeye basketball is pretty low. I couldn’t name the starting five, for example, but you can blame the Big Ten Network for that.
You see, I don’t have cable TV. Nor do I have satellite. And because of that, I have no access to seeing really any Iowa basketball games. I used to watch religiously when the games were on KGAN-TV. And back then, I had cable, so if they did end up on ESPN, I’d watch there too. Or go to the games. Now, as I have no easy entry-point to build interest in the team, I simply ignore them. And it does make me sad sometimes, because I still have some great memories of Iowa Basketball, of games I saw on TV, and games I saw in person. Now, I have no way to easily buy in, so I do other things.
But now it’s March. And somehow, every year, right around the Ides of March (and man, wasn’t “Vehicle” a great song?) I get totally immersed in college basketball. I go from not caring at all about any of these teams (and possibly not even knowing some of these schools had a team) to spending four solid days glued to the television, jumping out of my chair at great plays, calling fouls, yelling “Ring it up!” in my best Wayne Larrivee impression at three pointers, all of it. I can neither explain nor adequately describe my enjoyment.
A bracket is essential to this whole process. I have to have a rooting interest. Picking each one of the games provides me with someone to cheer for, and someone to absolutely loathe. One problem is, because I have no real interest the rest of the season, I scarcely know who it is that I’m picking. But no matter. Once I’ve made the choice, these are my guys. Until I have them losing in the next round, and then they’re a bunch of jerks.
That’s why the first weekend is especially good. I still have rooting interests. If my bracket goes poorly and I lose enough of my teams by the time the Elite Eight or Final Four rolls around, I lose interest. But for now, I’m totally into it. I’ve pinned my hopes on Louisville as National Champion, defeating surprise team Xavier (a 4-seed) in the final game. And as long as they’re both in it, I’m in too.