Thursday, March 10, 2005

Stay As Long As You Can

Sure, it would probably be great to be somewhere warm for Spring Break. Anywhere - say a Little Rock, a Jacksonville, a random Carolina, a California coast, a N'awlins or the heart of Texas - would probably be warmer and more conducive to partying and unwinding from the first two months of the semester than my current locale. And yeah, I probably was crazy to spend my Break in the only places that may actually be colder than the South Bend Tundra, New England and Western PA.

But I understand how much you're having out on the sand, getting a sunburn and wearing shorts for 96 straight hours, and I can do that in April. I appreciate the fact that the only reason you're not sure if you hooked up with that guy at State U is not because his face doesn't look familar, it's just that it looks a lot like some of the other guys you're not sure if you hooked up with or not, but I can attempt to make my rounds in May, getting so inebriated even I think that guy out at TC has some Rob Lowe qualities to him. You can forget about the warm glow of television as the only sounds you hear as you drift to sleep is the sound of your friends vomiting from the evening you just had and the soft buzz of insects on a warm night.

But starting today is perhaps the best ten days in sports, if not the entire entertainment world, or even perhaps, in life itself. The major conference tournaments kick off or reach quarterfinal action today, and that starts a beautiful half-score that leads us right into the games that decide who gets the last Sweet Sixteen entries of the night. The conference tournaments are as fun as the first couple rounds of the NCAA themselves, as you have bubble teams attempting to get those last couple victories to punch their dance card, the favorites trying to work their way into a 1 or 2 seed and the teams that have no postseason hopes at all, whose seniors are playing in what could potentially be their last game every time they step on the floor, giving everything they have to play spoiler.

Look at what Ricky Shields did for Rutgers last night. That's a kid who doesn't want to stop wearing the jersey of the Scarlet Knights, and you just have to tip your hat, or sun visor if you were watching the game at a cabana somewhere, to him for that. It's that kind of effort that counters the business-like attitude of some of the favorites or the nervous anxiety of some of the bubble teams. Can Ricky's heart carry his team past Cuse, UConn and Pitt? I doubt it, but don't think I won't be watching.

Yeah, I could be getting a gorgeous, darkened, straight-outta-The OC tan, but would I really want to trade that, when I only have to wait less than a month, for watching Rutgers/Syracuse, Illinois/Indiana and Mizzou/Oklahoma? You want human drama and gossip-worthy material? Forget about that five-way kiss you just saw last night and turn to Maryland, looking to avenge their two prior losses to Clemson and getting their shot at the favored Tar Heels. Can Georgia Tech hold off Va Tech and clinch their bid, and what about in the Big East, where West Virginia needs to knock off the number-one seeded Golden Eagles to make sure they'll be in the NCAA's and not the NIT's?

Sure, I'll enjoy your stories of wild parties and random hook-ups, but I can save all that fun for three weeks from now, while I tell you miraculous stories of the Mountain West semifinals, or speak with baited breath about how Connecticut and Louisville are for real and that I saw in the eyes of JamesOn Curry and the legs of Keith Langford whether or not Kansas and OK State have their ships back on track. I'll be right by your side at the Pong table for those funtastic weekends in April, but give me a few weeks of time where I can celebrate the purest sport in the world.

I can't wait to hear all about the wonderful places you went and reconsider my travel options for next March, but when I think about it, there's only one locale that deserves my time during this short, blissful period in that gray area between winter and spring. I can wait three weeks to celebrate the warmth and go crazy, but right now I'm approaching my exit, so you'll have to excuse me or I'll miss my lane.

The sign says "Welcome to Bracketville". I plan on staying as long as I can.

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