Thursday, March 26, 2009

3/31/09 - March Madness and the NBA race for #8

I love college basketball, I love March Madness, and, even it seems like a sort of too-easy sporting event to love (since the team I am loyal to, the Tar Heels of North Carolina, are perennial Goliaths/contenders), nonetheless, I do love it even when there aren't really a great deal of opening round upsets to speak of. The reason being is that when upsets are expected, they're not really upsets at all. To know that the higher seeds are capable of steamrolling the entire tournament may make this year's (and last year's) tournament seem dull, but it lays the seeds for future tournaments, when we don't expect a George Mason or W. Kentucky to do anything but roll over and die an then lo! We are shocked again anew. I've heard a lot about how this might be a really boring tournament, but I don't find a lot boring about close games and desperation basketball, even if Goliath winds up eating David alive. And again, to reiterate, I'm biased, because UNC is one of the 800-pound gorillas here, and I would love to see them win every game by 20 and cruise to the title.

But it brings me to one of my favorite subjects, which is the bad rap that the NBA suffers in comparison to the college game. Having come to the NBA late, and not having a team to swear blind loyalty to gives me a little bit of the freedom to freelance, fandom wise, and I once again find myself following the plight of that NBA Sisyphus of franchises, the Phoenix Suns. They played the Jazz last week to fight for the right to enter the playoffs, and the atmosphere of the game was absolutely electric - far more so than any of the opening round games of the NCAAs. I don't know where the idea comes from that pro athletes don't care, or don't try, but it seems particular to the NBA. Nobody ascribes sloth and non-motivation to the NFL as a league, so why the NBA? Especially since the Suns-Jazz game I saw featured neck and neck lead changes, dives for loose balls, and all players going all-out 110 percent while playing some of the best basketball in the world. I love the NCAA tournament, but if basketball gives you pleasure it's sheer madness to write off the entire NBA just because of received wisdom that the games don't matter and the players don't care. When a 35 year old point guard is sacrificing his body by stepping in front of Carlos Boozer on the way to the rim, hitting the deck to ensure postseason games, well; the dichomoty falls apart.

Best of luck to the Suns in their quest, even if it looks like post-Sacramento all hopes are dead in the water until next year.

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