You're Too Big For Your Britches....Sports (Part 1)
As most of your know, it is March, and the Madness has only just begun. I love the NCAA tournament. Sure, a large part of that has to do with that fact that I am a Michigan State alum and Tom Izzo is quite literally the reason for the season. If anyone was still pondering if there is to be a second coming well then Tom Izzo might be that man.
The sheer unpredictability of the tourney is maniacal. It really is beautiful chaos. It has to be my favorite time of year when it comes to sports. Having said that....
The NCAA has flaws, as it seems the unfortunate trend with ALL sports these days. Allow me to drill down and get specific. I'm bitching about the selection of the arena come Final Four time. Why are we putting a basketball game in a football stadium?! Jerry's World? Really? Ford Field? What the shit are we doing here people?!
Yes, there is a obvious split with many a sports fan. You have your die hard professional sports fanatics (NFL, NBA, etc.) and you have your college crazies. Much of this allegiance has a direct correlation to any one person's geographic location, and I understand that fact. I understand it well because I'm a college fan. I grew up in Michigan. Now, I sure as shit appreciate my Tigers and my Red Wings but the Lions? Think of any punchline ever created and there is an 88% chance it has something to do with the dreadful NFL franchise from Detroit. The Lions have a single bragging right (albeit somewhat of a joke) and it's our undefeated preseason record back in 2008. Oh, just in case you were wondering, Detroit followed up that gem with an 0-16 regular season record. With all of that being said I think you can forgive me for erring on the side of collegiate athletics.
What makes college sports so much more special than pro sports is its fans. Yes. College students and alum. Sure, three quarters of the student section is hammered drunk but tell me that doesn't provide some secondary entertainment to the game itself. And these kids have more on the line. Hell, they instantly accumulated a mountain of debt as soon as they signed up for school, so season tickets aren't exactly part of the budget. Yet there they are, a hootin' and a hollerin'. And yes, an unacceptable number of boosters at a game can water down the pandemonium but they're forking over the scratch to fund that state-of-the-art stadium you're sitting in so we'll tolerate them. There's just so much more PASSION packed into a college game. And don't you dare tell me that the fucking 53 year old ass juggler painted from head to toe in his team's colors has passion. He doesn't. What he has is a shit job, a shit life and nothing better to do with his median salary than to spend it all on NFL paraphernalia. Guy's a joke. He doesn't cry enough tears after his team loses to wash off that sad excuse for a school art project. In fact, don't go home after the game my man....Go to hell.
I'd also make the argument that college sports holds an edge in the 'purity' department as well but then I'd just be lying to myself and to you all. What I mean by that is the product out on the field/court/diamond isn't influenced by money....Yup. Now you know why my leading statement was such a joke. Sadly college athletics is dancing awfully close to that fine line. Before we know it college kids are going to be paid for playing sports. Gee, and I thought getting a FREE EDUCATION might be enough! Well slap my sack and shame on me. Here I am still paying off student loans while I've got greedy jabroni's whining that tens of thousands of dollars worth of a decent education isn't quite enough. This outburst will inevitably lead to the other side of the argument which is that these kids are making so much money for their respective universities that it only seems right to be paying them. Give me a good God damn break. Simple solutions people. You think they spend too much time practicing versus studying? Then mandate the practice times. Hey, maybe universities could actually hold their programs accountable for maintaining a passing grade point while we're concocting a list. And as far as the amount of money they're raking in???? Light bulb! Pour more of that money into your academics! Forget the two year old weight room you clearly don't need to upgrade. Focus on the studies suckers. Shit, our country's getting dumber by the minute and you're not helping reverse that trend. So shame on your piggy little snouts.
OK. I took ya a wee bit off track and for that I may or may not apologize. Alas, we press on. After slamming the 'powers that be' behind college sports let's get back to brass tacks.
I don't want to experience an event as thrilling as an NCAA tourney game from four miles away. I want to be smashed into a campus arena. I want to be shoulder to shoulder with my fellow fan. So dial these crowds back a notch and start hosting games in more moderately sized venues. Why not (and take your 'Because it makes more money' answer and shove it)? Why are we so hellbent on everything having to be bigger and better? What kind of quality experience can you really have when you're so far away from the action that players look like ants? What's more maddening is that you can't even drown in your sorrows of missing play after play because beers at these games require a mortgage and your social security number. Forget all of that nonsense.
Please bring us back to simpler times. I swear to God it can be done. Will it? Highly doubtful. About as doubtful as Middle Tennessee beating Michigan State in the opening round of this year's tourney. Yup. It happened. And as distraught as I am on the outcome it was beautiful chaos. So if a 15 seed can beat a 2 seed then you sure as shit can offer me a solid viewing experience.
And for good measure, ESPN sucks. You did this, ESPN. YOU DID THIS.