Thursday, March 20, 2008

Just A (Sad) Fan

My team is in the bracket. WKU is playing in their first NCAA tourney since 2003. For the vast majority of schools, this is not a long drought. It's seemed LONG in Bowling Green, though. I am very happy that my Toppers are en route to Tampa for their first round game vs Drake. Should be a good one. I should be happy.

Also, this weekend is probably my favorite sports weekend of the year. Actually, it's probably a tie between this one and the last two weekends. I should be happy.

This championship is the greatest championship in sports, and I know that there are some wonderful stories to unfold in the next three weekends. I should be happy.

But, there is a tinge of lament with all this. I can check my biases when evaluating teams by the NCAA selection criteria, but I am a WKU fan and a "mid-major" fan to the core when the bracketing day is done. While I understand why Illinois State and VCU are not IN, that does NOT mean that they are not better teams than Kentucky or Oregon. I think that they are, frankly. But, the nature of the scheduling world, resources, exposure, and other factors does handicap non-power schools to some degree.

Also, as a fan, I don't pick against my team, so I will not be posting my bracket picks. I'll either look ridiculous for picking WKU to win, or I'll have to pick them to lose. So, I'm not filling one out. My rationale does not quite match my esteemed friend at the Mid-Majority's view, but I was moved and convicted by this essay.

Finally, the real downer comes with hearing the entire world talk about this bracketed national title like it simply plowed into the earth after being launched from some distant planet. NOW people are talking about basketball, and most are unaware of the paths that most of these teams had to navigate to get here. It gets reduced to a name on a seed line, and in a lot of cases, teams full of players who will someday be your hometowns' dentists, lawyers, business owners, doctors, teachers, wildlife officers, etc., are seen as warm-up fodder for the teams with big names, big alumni bases, big dollars, big conferences, big exposure, and players who will earn big NBA paychecks. It saddens me to some degree.

But, that's what we do at schools like WKU. We labor in relative obscurity until we breakthrough into the this March attention bonanza. We do unearth an NBA-quality gem every once in awhile (Courtney Lee!), but at best, a few of these guys might get to knock around Europe for awhile if they are lucky, and then come back and get a job like most of us have. It's a shame that WKU is playing Drake in the first round, because the Bulldogs are exactly the kind of team that I celebrate and root for this time of year.

No event brings 100% happiness or 100% sadness, and I am certainly more happy than sad. But now, even if WKU wins, there will still be a tinge of sadness for the loss of Drake and those like them. Barring a George Mason redux of some sort, I'll probably care less about the Final Four than anyone reading this post. That said, let the best weekend of the year commence, and may the obscure prolong their newly found celebrity deep into the bracket.