by Timothy Rollins, Editor and Publisher
March 20, 2003
This is it - today begins the Big Dance - the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Tuesday's preliminary game sent a winner to the field of 64 teams that will go head-to-head with the others in the four regional tournaments until only two teams are left playing for all the marbles in New Orleans April 7th.
Texas in the South, Oklahoma (East), Arizona (West) and Kentucky in the Midwest Regional are the top seeds, and while each go in with very strong and talented lineups, all 64 teams go in with the same objective: to do what only one team can do - go 6-0, cut down the nets and hear "One Shining Moment" played in a moment meant only for them.
When you get down to it, that's the beauty of this tournament: You win, you move on - you lose, you go home - end of story. All or nothing, do or die, single elimination - this is what makes the NCAA Championship the crown jewel in all of sports competition - more so than the NBA Finals, the World Series, the Stanley Cup or any other competition including the Super Bowl, for even though that is also an all-or-nothing competition, it tends far more often than not to be an anti-climactic three-and-a-half hour lop-sided blowout that had been preceded by nine hours of pre-game hype.
Here you will see heartbreak stories as well as Cinderella stories emerge. In 1982 (if memory serves), number 2 seed in the West Arizona was nailed in the first round in Salt Lake City by Santa Clara (California). In 1983, North Carolina State used their strength in outside shooting to not only win the ACC tournament (the ACC was using an 18' 6" 3-point line that year), but entered the tournament final and shocked the University of Houston with a 54-52 stunner at the last possible moment in a thriller at "The Pit" in Albuquerque and put on the glass slipper for themselves, causing cheers to erupt in my apartment as I had a number of friends over for the game that night. Thankfully, my 16-month old son (who was asleep in his crib at the time) did not wake up. My wife at the time would have had a good case of justifiable homicide - especially if the jury pool were composed of 12 young mothers.
Over the years, it has been and continues to be an annual thrill, as there have been plays indelibly etched in my memory as well as that of the American collective. 1981 had BYU and Danny Ainge going up against Notre Dame and Kelly Tripucka, with Danny going coast-to-coast for an easy lay-up in a nail-biter that went down to the wire before a final decision was reached. 1982 had a game between Kentucky and Tennessee where there were THREE lead changes in the last two seconds, 1997 had Arizona knocking off THREE number one seeds before winning all the marbles and the one I cherish the most was the 2000 NCAA's where Kentucky and my beloved Utah team were in the final going for all the marbles - one whale of a game until Kentucky wore out Utah running them up and down the court in the second half, thus sealing Utah's fate and the win for the Wildcats.
The class acts will be there - the dean himself - Lute Olsen of Arizona, along with Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Utah's Rick Majerus, Kansas' Roy Williams, Purdue's Gene Keady and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski along with new ones who will make their first appearances. The bad boy himself - Texas Tech's Bob Knight, formerly of Indiana, will not be there. Too bad though - like Howard Stern, Knight does provide a certain sense of comic relief, and the tournament will be a little less lively without him.
So here we have it, the premier sports event - March Madness now upon us and in full swing. Ten days split over three weekends that will determine who the next national collegiate champion will be. While it will be nice to crown a new champion, let us never forget that athletics are a means to a larger end, for the game of life is far more important than running up and down the court for 40 minutes.
As a former athlete myself, I know this firsthand, and I thank God every day for great coaches who both taught me this and reminded me of it ever day.
Good luck all! ***
© 2003 Timothy Rollins
© 2003 BY THE AMERICAN PARTISAN.
All writers retain rights to their work.