Tuesday, March 14, 2006

March Madness

Well it's that time of year again. The time of year when millions of Americans become obsessed with college basketball. The time of the ubiquitous office pool where brackets are filled in by people who are suddenly experts in college basketball despite the fact that they haven't followed the regular season and know little or nothing about any of the teams that made the tournament.

To paraphrase Dick Vitale: It's the NCAA Basketball Tournament Baby!

And to this I say: BFD!

I'm sorry. I just can't get into it anymore. I no longer care.

That didn't used to be the case. I used to be a big sports nut. I loved it all. College and professional hoops, football, auto racing, golf. The Olympics. I'd watch just about anything on TV. (Anything that is except baseball. I mean come on; baseball on TV? How do you spell baseball? b-o-r-i-n-g. Plus every game is essentially meaningless. "Well we lost. That sucks. At least we've still got another 145 games to play". How can you get excited about that.) I'd never miss any of "my teams" games. "Oh, you're getting married next Saturday? You know I'd love to come but there's a playoff game that day and I really can't afford to miss it. I'd be letting down the team." As if the teams success depended on my actually seeing the game; and wearing my lucky shirt.

It's hard to pinpoint the exact time when I became apathetic about the whole thing. It was probably more of a gradual process. At first I'd be like "if I don't watch today's game and they win, they'll still be alive in the tournament so I can watch the next game and if they loose, I'd just be pissed off and upset so it's better that I didn't see the game at all". Eventually it became "Oh, the games on? I can't watch it, I have to clip the cats toenails. Then I need to organize my sock drawer. The black and white socks are touching again".

What caused me to loose my interest in watching sports? It's probably a combination of several factors. As I've gotten older I've had less time to watch sports. Work's busier. I've got 2 kids who demand a lot of my time. I've developed interests other than sports. Reading, playing with my kids, riding my bike. I no longer have time to spend 9 hours on a Sunday watching back-to-back-to-back NFL games.

Then there's the cost of going to professional sporting events. At one time we had season tickets for both NBA and NFL teams. But the cost has gotten outrageous. Ticket prices are high, the concession prices are ridiculous, then there's all the "authentic" team apparel and merchandise you have to get. The average person can't afford to take the family to one of these games. They'd have to skip the rent or mortgage payment to do it. Then you've got these multimillionaire teenagers or twenty somethings who make like 5 thousand dollars a minute and billionaire owners complaining about the lack of fan support and threatening to move their teams to another city if their city doesn't build them a new stadium to play in. It's disgusting. What do they expect. If they want the fans to come out and support them, lower the ticket prices, cut players salaries, sell a cup of beer for less than 7 dollars. Jeez. There's no way these professional athletes are worth the millions they're making. It's sports for crying out loud. If professional sports didn't exist it wouldn't make a bit of difference to the planet.

That being said, perhaps the primary reason I stopped following sports is that it got to be too big of an emotional investment. I cared too much. It was too painful. When my team won it was thrilling. When they lost; depressing, demoralizing. It would ruin my day; my week. It was particularly painful the year the teams were good. When the teams sucked it didn't matter so much. You didn't expect them to win. When they did it was a nice surprise; a bonus. But when they were good things were different. Expectations were high. You thought they had a real chance. This was going to be the year they went all the way; won the championship. But alas, it didn't happen. They'd get so close, only to fail at the last minute, the last second. Or, they'd get get their butts kicked in the first round of the playoffs, eliminated by a lesser team. That's when I'd get really pissed off. "How could you loose to those jokers? Where was the intensity? Where was the effort? You get paid millions of dollars and that's the best you can do".

Frankly, I got tired of being continually disappointed year after year. One of "my teams" hasn't won any kind of a championship since 1987. That's almost 20 years of disappointment. I felt like I was wasting my time (and money). If I add up all of the time I've spent watching sports it probably amounts to a few years of my life. I could have put one of my kids through college with the money I've wasted. There are so many other things I could have been doing. So now I'm doing them. And you know what? I don't miss the sports much at all. Sure I'll still watch an occasional game. The superbowl for instance. But it's not important anymore. It's merely entertainment like a movie or a concert. I don't really care who wins or loses.

Back to the NCAA Basketball tournament.

Interesting fact about the tournament. Apparently our country loses billions of dollars in lost productivity because of the amount of time people spend on line at work following the tournament. It's only going to get worse this year as CBS is webcasting all of the tournament games for free. This is probably a somewhat bogus finding. If they weren't watching the tournament on line they'd probably be doing something else on line. The work would get done regardless.

As for these office pools, very few people that enter them have any idea what they're doing. While there are a few knowledgeable fans who can rank the teams correctly, most people aren't that good. They either A. Pick their favorite team to win it all irregardless of how good the team is or B. Pick the winners based on who is the higher seed for each game. They might throw in a dark horse picked at random and hope they get lucky but that's about it. In one pool I was in, one girl who entered picked her teams purely based on the color of their uniforms. Red teams beat gold. Blue beat green. Black lost to everyone. She came in third.

For those of you still into the tournament I hope you enjoy it. Me, I'll be reading the latest Charles Stross book or playing Parcheesi with the kids. And I won't be too upset when they beat me.


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