Saturday, February 24, 2007

Basketball Jones

I just caught the end of the OU vs. Texas basketball game on ESPN U. That was a spirited game. I admit I was pulling for OU since I now live on the Oklahoma border and also because the Arkansas-Texas rivalry is ingrained in my Southwest Conference Athletic DNA. Texas earned their win however and I salute them. It was a good game; and now I am watching the final seconds of LSU vs. Florida. I cannot believe that LSU is going to win this one - they don't even have "Big Baby" on the floor!

This weekend and next weekend hold out the promise of excellent college basketball. All of this is a prelude to March Madness. I am not a sports fanatic, but I love the end of the basketball season for two reasons: nostalgia and hope.

Of all the sports I am most nostalgic about basketball. I remember watching the Razorbacks on TV with my family as a child. We anticipated the nights and weekends when the Hogs would be on TV. It was always one of our major family events. As a teen, I can recall going to Barnhill Arena with my father, grandfather, and friends and getting caught up in the enthusiasm of those days. I don't think they've been able to reproduce the excitement of those days in the new arena - not even during the winning season of 1994.

I am somewhat maddened that Razorback athletics have been mired in rumor and shame over the last few years. Ever since the controversy between Nolan Richardson and Frank Broyles there has been a certain taint to what ought to be good honest diversion. The "Nutt-Malzahn-Mustain" triangle has further tainted what should be a positive turn in UA athletics. Such is the problem with nostalgia, it is too often vulnerable to controversy and scandal. I understand that people have grievances, but it is a shame when the scandal overshadows the sport.

I also love the March Madness season because of hope. Unlike the disappointing and confusing Bowl System in football, the NCAA tourney creates an opportunity for real competition and stunning upsets. It is always possible for #65 in the standings, the ultimate underdog, to come in and win the entire tournament. Someone will say, "Oh, that'll never happen." Please don't make me delineate the difference between possible and probable. Is it probable that any 16th seed will win the whole series? No, but it is always a possibility no matter how slim a chance they have. This tournament is so potentially thrilling because it creates that sort of hope. It is the athletic equivalent of the Year of Jubilee when slaves were set free and debts were cancelled. Jubilee created the possibility of reversal which gave even the humblest of the humble a taste of triumph. Now, if Arkansas can get just a 16th seed and beat the odds my madness will become gladness.

1 comment:

Al Sturgeon said...

There was no better college basketball arena than Barnhill Arena. Though I often side with Progress, sometimes it's simply a screw-up.

BTW, I like the Jubliee analogy to March Madness. I thought I had made every Bible/Sports connection possible, but apparently not...