March Madness & March badness
Posted by James McPherson on March 15, 2010
Like perhaps a few million other folks, each year I fill out an NCAA bracket for an annual office competition. I never win, in part because I too often go with heart over head (silly liberal!) and in part because I simply don’t pay much attention to college basketball except as it involves the Washington State Cougars and the Whitworth Pirates–neither of which plays the brand of basketball that will be featured on CBS and ESPN during March Madness.
In fact, despite the fact that I played college football (and have a son-in-law who played more and better), still join in a twice-weekly basketball game, and follow a few college and sports teams, I am (like sports columnist Norman Chad) seriously conflicted about the emphasis we as a society put on college and pro sports. I love the games. I hate what they’ve become.
It bugs me that major college football coaches make more money than college presidents. I hate the fact that so few major athletes graduate from college, and that so many of them fail to take advantage of their scholarships. I hate the gambling culture that revolves around sports in general, a practice even sleazier when it involves college athletics (the pool I’m in involves no reward other than bragging rights).
For years I’ve told students that a worthwhile story might start with checking out the cars in the athletes’ parking lot for any major college football or basketball program. We read and hear lots of stories about how athletes have overcome economic adversity to get to college, but we don’t see stories about how they manage to drive there in nicer cars than the ones owned by the faculty. But criticizing the home team doesn’t pay, so the story doesn’t get done.
And I understand it. I’ll be yelling at the TV during the tournament myself, and I have nothing vested in any of the teams. And to show you just how bad I am at this, I offer the highlights of my bracket: Washington, Louisville, Old Dominion, Northern Iowa, Georgia Tech, and Florida State are my first-r0und upsets; Temple, Washington, Louisville and Michigan State are the upset winners in the second round; and my Final Eight are Temple, West Virginia, Louisville, Villanova, Kansas, Michigan State, Georgetown, Ohio State, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Pittsburgh and Kansas State.
My Final Four are West Virginia, Villanova, Kansas and Kansas State, with Kansas beating Villanova in the championship. And for the next few days, I’m as right as you are.