NCAA Threatens to Trade MarchMadness Perfection… for Just a Little More
April 9, 2010
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March Madness is one of thebest sporting events of the year, every year, on a very short list withthe Super Bowl, the World Series and the Olympics. But March Madnessis the most inclusive – and, in some ways, the purest.
The tournament’s 65 teamscame from 31 states this year. Schools like Gonzaga and Winthrop,Lehigh and New Mexico State all got to play.
What separates March Madnessfrom the other events is that we get to play, too. Every officeruns a hoop pool, and the winner is never the ESPN-addicted sharpiein sales, but the receptionist who picks her teams based on her favoritecolors. It’s a beautiful thing.
This year’s March Madnesshad it all – early round upsets, like Northern Iowa over Kansas; traditionalpowers like Michigan State and Kentucky advancing to the Elite Eight;and a title game for the ages.
In this corner, you had thethree-time champeeens: The Duke Blue Devils, whose coach wondered whyhis school wasn’t more popular. Yes, why aren’t obnoxious rich kids from New York more popular? Got me, Coach!
And in this corner, you hadthe upstart Butler Bulldogs from Indianapolis, who had never been tothe Final Four. They play their home games in the very arena wherethey filmed the movie “Hoosiers” in 1986, and where Milan High Schoolplayed that actual game, in 1954.
All the experts said Duke wasgoing to blow out Butler, but the game went back and forth all night.In the final seconds, Butler’s wonderboy, Gordon Hayward, dashed downthe court to launch a last-second half-court shot -- but it bouncedoff the rim, just off the mark. Duke won by two – the closestfinal since Michigan’s overtime victory in 1989.
It was one of those rare gameswhere both teams came out the better for it. For the fourth time,Duke earned a national title, and for the first time, Butler earnednational respect.
The TV ratings were the bestin eleven years. So the NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, was notcontent to say, “It is good.” No. That’s forsuckers. It said, Gimme gimme gimme.
Instead of leaving perfectionalone, the NCAA is poised to add 31 teams and another week to the tournament.If you wonder why, you have to remember the NCAA’s holy trinity: Greed,Hypocrisy and Stupidity.
March Madness is already thebiggest money maker in the history of college athletics, by far.Every year, CBS pays out $700 million to the NCAA, in exchange for tendays of basketball. The coaches are millionaires, and the playersare students. Where’s Karl Marx when you need him?
But $700 million is not enough.Why? Because, to the NCAA, it is never enough. Itreminds me of an exchange between Homer Simpson and his boss, MontyBurns. When Homer says, “You’re the richest man I know.”Burns says. “Yes. But you know, I’d trade it all forjust a little more.”
Some things in sports are perfect:90 feet from home plate to first base. 100 yards on a footballfield. And three weeks for March Madness.
If the NCAA adds a fourth week,they’ll give us a lot of bad teams playing bad basketball, and ruinthe rhythm of the tournament for everyone. How are you going tofit 96 teams on a single sheet of paper to fill out your bracket?
None of this will stop theNCAA, because nothing -- not billions, not perfection, not fair play-- has ever stopped the NCAA.
March Madness might be thebest sports event of the year. But the NCAA is going to tradeit all, for just a little more.
Now that is madness.
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