Friday, March 16, 2007

March Madness Marathon

I had a mission yesterday, and I thought I was ready to go the distance. I sat down on the couch and clicked on CBS a few minutes after noon, just in time to hear Seth Davis make one more eminently forgettable comment that would have no impact on any of the 16 games being played that day. I knew the games would go until some time after midnight, but I thought I was in good shape to make it to the finish.

The marathon started fast with a very enjoyable game between Maryland and Davidson (see below). Just enough excitement to get the blood pumping, but as the Terps took control in the second half, I felt I was establishing a nice rhythm that would serve me well into the evening. As the first of many, many, CBS promotions for The Masters flashed onto the screen, I drank it in like it was pure oxygen. The second feature game of Georgetown-Belmont kept the pace, with the lower seed getting out fast to an 11-4 lead before the Hoyas awakened, first annoyed, then angered. By the time the kids made it home from school, this one was also in the books, and it was time to get out of the house because the GW-Vanderbilt game was not being shown by the local Baltimore affiliate.

So I tore my sons away from their homework, and we set out for a local fine dining establishment with four televisions, each of them wider than Roy Hibbert's wingspan. We missed the tipoff, and GW trailed 13-5 by the time we sat down. Sometimes, it's fun to watch games on a big screen. This was not one of those times. Vanderbilt crushed the Colonials in just about every way you can imagine. When it was 45-20 at the half, I said to myself, "Well, at least it's not as bad as Stanford," who had trailed Louisville by more than 30 earlier in the day. Then Vandy opened the second half with a 13-4 run.

The reason no one should ever complain about winning ugly is because losing ugly is so much worse. I've actually seen GW play worse, including a 103-73 loss at Duke in 1994 and a 54-34 loss to Temple in the Atlantic 10 semifinals. The Colonials led that one 24-16 at the half and didn't score a point for 15 minutes. Fortunately, there are plenty of wonderful wins to go with the woeful losses, and in time, this team will be remembered for winning the school's second Atlantic 10 Championship and a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The ride home was like that charter flight back from an all-inclusive trip to Cancun. On the flight to Mexico, there are complimentary margaritas and hot towels from cheery flight attendants, but the return trip is one long, sunburnt hangover. I was a little queasy at the thought of watching more games, but I tried to chalk it up to the bleu cheese dressing that came with the wings at the restaurant. Luckily for me, VCU provided the perfect remedy. The Rams pressed, trapped and battered Duke until the Blue Devils were left looking for a Laettneresque miracle that was nowhere to be found. The first upset of the day was as dramatic as you (and the CBS executives) could have hoped for.

But the Rams' celebration turned out to be the end of the line for me. I took the dog out for a few minutes, and when I returned, the Doc had steered the remote towards Grey's Anatomy. I rallied for a few mintes of Wright State-Pitt, but my attention wandered and as I switched over to the Daily Show during a commercial break, I fought to stay awake, but it was all over.

Maybe it was all the excitement of so many local teams playing, the emotional highs and lows. Maybe it's the fact that I turned 40 a few weeks ago, and the sports TV marathon, like pickup basketball, is a young man's game. Or maybe, call me crazy, but just maybe, we aren't supposed to try to watch 12 hours of basketball in one day. Could be, I guess. I'm about two hours from giving it another shot though, so I'll let you know.

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