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Catching Up on College Madness

March 22nd, 2021 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Basketball, English Premier League, France, soccer, Sports Journalism, UCLA, USC

I have lived outside the United States for most of the past 12 years and I can vouch for this: Over that much time your sports interests mutate. Perhaps significantly.

Some sports pretty much disappear from your mind. Thinking all high school sports; just can’t keep track of any of them, so I lost track of all of them. Motor racing is another. The rest of the world doesn’t much care about the two primary forms of racing, in the U.S. — Nascar and Indy Car. And you can’t follow what you can’t find on TV. Like hockey.

At the other extreme are the sports you begin following with particular enthusiasm. Soccer and international soccer and particularly the English Premier League. We might see as many as seven, eight, 10 matches per week. Liverpool and Arsenal and and various Uniteds. The Two Robbies, Earle and Mustoe.

And then there are those sports on a slow burn. I have lost the ability to follow the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, day to day, but I will always know who is good and who stinks. I may even make an effort to keep a toe in the water. (Like by subscribing to NFL RedZone.) Baseball and the NBA … because of time differences it is hard to see them live, but I read about them most days

And another slow burner … one a couple of weeks ago I would have said outgrew me. Unless it was me leaving them behind.

That is, NCAA men’s college basketball. I remember March Madness. I covered it as a journalist. I watched a lot of it. And the past few days I have found myself skipping a soccer match or two to see teams of college kids cavorting. The NCAA Tournament, also known as March Madness, as I recall.

Sixty-eight teams, each with their own story.

Tonight, I plan to see UCLA play Abilene Christian, starting at 10:15 p.m. over here in France. I would try to watch USC (and the Mobley brothers, Evan and Isaiah), too, but they play at, like, 2:30 a.m. Euro time, and being awake may not happen. (Even if Evan is a guy who might go first in the NBA draft.)

What is revealed anew, in the NCAA tourney, is the unpredictability of the annual tournament. Some great team loses to a minnow from some random conference. Like, say, Loyola of Chicago beating a regional top seed, Illinois. Like, say, Oral Roberts defeating Ohio State in overtime, and then ousting Florida, or Abilene Christian (!) taking down Texas.

This is good stuff. Aside from the surfeit of ads. What will happen next? Which school’s 101-year-old nun will be watching and praying? (That would be Loyola.) Can UCLA rediscover it’s mojo?

It is a great deal of fun, especially when the upsets come fast and furious, as they did over the weekend. And even without the joy of school bands and cheerleaders.

So, big-ticket college sports — hoops and football — even being out of the country, they have the ability to bring me back.


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