Mid-Majors: The Culture of "Us"
For those of you that are not die-hard fans of mid-major college basketball and cannot name this year's champion of the Northeast Conference (or frankly any team from the Northeast Conference), I'd like to introduce you to "us."
"Us" wasn't always around and may not continue forever.
"Us" includes every team not in the BCS power conferences of the ACC, SEC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-10.
"Us" does not include Gonzaga or Memphis, but does include the A-10.
"Us" has a voice that helped unify "us" four years ago and whose web site is the Mid-Major manifesto.
"Us" is controversial. No one really wants to hear about "us" because we always seem to be whining or celebrating or doing stupid things like throwing out a bracket just to be able to cheer for Siena over Louisville.
"Us" doesn't make sense because the notions of our scribe engender things like a collective respect for teams that we don't know, a collective scorn for teams that many of us know plenty about, and an omnipresent search for justice in college basketball.
Although Kyle Whelliston has only become the face of this phenomenon, the fact is that there is an idea now among some that college basketball is divided into two worlds: the haves and the have-nots.
Most often, the people who accept and further this dualism are supporters of the have-nots.
They quote Whelliston's invective against the athletic department subsidizing semi-professional basketball with unpaid players and take the NCAA Tournament as their chance to root against all things evil and cheer for all things good.
They look at the discrepancies in numbers of OOC road games that mid-major teams must play versus the lack of ones that power conference teams choose to play and they cry foul.
They scratch and claw and belittle their conference rivals to the point of bitterness, but they will defend them to the death the minute a big school's fanbase comes into the picture.
They all talk about wanting to become Gonzaga one day. They believe that a few good years in the NCAA tournament can translate to recruiting success and more regular season TV games.
But in the long dark halls of directional universities or liberal arts colleges, they are ashamed of Gonzaga. The Zags sold out and are just as bad as the 28,000-person big-state university down the road. Maybe even worse.
"Us" has a very clear agenda in a sport where agendas aren't usually accepted.
Before you start getting mad (obviously some of you already started after my last article), let explain one more thing. So many of the people that jump on this dialectic within college basketball do it from a much deeper sense of a David-syndrome.
For someone who graduated from a small liberal arts school that few people have heard of with a degree that most people don't know what to do with (Wait, you're a history major? What do you know about public relations?), one quickly develops a defensiveness against the big guys.
Heck, there is something so classically ingrained in the American psychic culture that it is quite easy for "us" to proselytize and convert.
Whip out a story of those do-or-die patriots with cheap uniforms taking long shots at the big, bad British led by a former loyal Brit who grew up wanting to join the British army, but they told him he was too small.
Well, not really, but the Stephen Curry parallels are always ready. Heck, Davidson already has "David" in its name.
"Us" is just a foreign concept to those on the other side of the line, as we continue on through this weekend pulling for Dayton, Cleveland State, Xavier, and Siena to survive and advance.
I mean, what Louisville fan is going to be heart-broken if Syracuse is upset by Arizona State today?
Call "us" reverse elitists.
Call "us" whack-job conspiracy theorists.
Heck, just keep on ignoring "us."
Like it or not, we are so often scorned that we have come to welcome it.
But after Cleveland State beats Arizona today and you celebrate in the bar with everyone else because you put them in your bracket, realize that not everyone in that bar will be celebrating for the same reasons.
"Us" needs Cleveland State to win because of something much more organic than a lunch-money bet.
"Us" is obsessed with "truth, justice, and college basketball." And that's just something that we don't expect you to understand.
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