College Basketball: March Madness...I Used to Love It
I never thought I would say this, but it's over.
My love for you that was once undying no longer holds a spark as we've been drifting apart for years now.
Honestly, you're not the same game I fell in love with as a kid.
I'd ask what happened to us, but let's face what we both know deep down. With you it was always about wanting more while somewhere along the way forgetting what made you so amazing in the first place. Over time I tried to keep us together, but eventually I got old and a bit too jaded in the process.
Years ago though you were the best. You were the one truly special thing that helped bridge the gap between winter and spring year after year as we grew up together.
Remember all those times we spent on the couch as a kid, going to parties with friends as a teenager, hanging out in one crowded dorm room after another in college and then eventually sneaking out with co-workers to a bar near the office for a "long lunch" that lasted until the mid-afternoon?
To this day I still think back fondly to all of the friends you introduced me to like David Robinson, Kenny Anderson, Allen Iverson and even Bill Curley to name a few as a kid. Granted, all of them broke my heart, but some day I hoped to be in the stands rooting for my school while playing in the pep band going up against the likes of Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Indiana, etc.
Oh how I loathed all of them and yet even that hasn't grown old (via Grantland).
It was all part of the fun as I would toss aside my books or work for a few hours, if not days at a time. No matter what, you could always conjure up some sort of excitement to suck me in. The first few days were always the biggest rush as everybody came to the party. Watching you bob and weave your way through the chaos while always managing to stay cool (even as the occasional upset oddly made you stronger), still amazes me.
Looking back, I realize I probably spent way too much time with you obsessing over every moment, but I really have no regrets, especially early on in our relationship.
I'd be wrong if I didn't thank you in helping me forge some kind of identity at that time. It's one of your strong suits, but I also think it's been part of your undoing.
Growing up in Big East country during the 1980's was almost too good to be true as even little known schools like Seton Hall, Providence and UConn could hang with the heavyweights like Georgetown, Syracuse and Pittsburgh on the national stage, but things changed when Miami came into the fold.
At the time it seemed cool to think that football might help the conference, but little did we know it was the first big rift in our relationship. Football would basically ruin everything as the Big East became a revolving door for years, but when you started talking to the likes of TCU and Boise State a few years back, I started to feel embarrassed for both of us.
You told me that everyone was doing it, but that was simply an excuse and a weak one at best.
You used to be better than that, yet instead sold your soul for the money and continued plowing forward as a self-deluded hot-mess.
Right now I can picture you telling me that you don't need me and feel that I should be happy for your success. You're bigger than ever with round the clock press, live-streaming coverage, a fancy selection show, the whole business of Bracketology and everyone from all walks of life making their picks...including President Obama (via ESPN)...thank you very much!
But honestly, I'm tired of pretending to care, and no, this isn't because my school failed to make the tourney this year.
March Madness is...
What happened to you?
Why are there 68 teams with these pointless extra games, ridiculous conference realignments and players I can no longer recognize or identify who are off to the NBA after only a year?
How is it that I can't name a single top player in the NCAA this year? Sadly I'm not the only one either (Jason Whitlock @ FoxSports).
Yet 20 years on I can still remember the difference between LaPhonso Ellis of Notre Dame and LeRon Ellis of Syracuse.
Joking aside, honestly, have you looked in the mirror lately?
At first glance you still look good, but your eyes no longer have that same spark.
I suppose we all get old at some point and I know I sound like a tired crank right now, plus having a wife, a kid, taxes, credit cards, etc. is no excuse either. Still, I can no longer identify with you. It's not enough to play along while making some popcorn, putting on an old college sweatshirt and finding my way to the couch anymore to watch.
Fact is, you don't need me given there's a whole new generation of youngsters to fawn over you.
Kids who will find themselves at a loss as to who they're pretending to post up against in their driveway unless they're actively keeping track of who Kentucky is recruiting next year or the year after.
I understand you will always be chasing money, yet when you get a chance can you do me a favor and try to get yourself some help?
I might be well past the point of ever reaching again, but perhaps my son in a few years time will be interested in the game.
Recently I was glad to see that one of your Cinderella success stories in Gonzaga has finally become legit with a No. 1 Seed and that the Big East is at least trying to return to its roots.
The resurrection of the the Big East seems like common sense, but for a time I was a bit unsure this would happen.
Maybe there still is a little bit of soul still in there. Just remember that it wouldn't hurt to let it shine a little on occasion for more than just a few weeks each March.
Until then I wish you all the best and hope some day we can be together again as friends.
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