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Sweetness And Light
Wed March 19, 2014
There's A Reason They Call It Madness
Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 7:28 am
More than any other nation, America is awash in teams. There are the pro teams, the college team, the high school team, the fantasy teams.
Well, at a certain point, something has to give — and apparently, the team sport that's given way the most is men's college basketball.
Yes, college hoops has its fleeting moment in the vernal equinox. It's fun. You make out brackets — but it's not like other sports where you're familiar with the principals.
Take fantasy football. Fans make up their own teams, yes, but they know who the players are. It's their fantasy, but it's real, knowledgeable fantasy.
By contrast, March Madness is like phantom basketball. It's more like a lottery. Who are these teams? Where did they come from? It's upside-down.
Click on the audio link above to hear Deford's take on March Madness.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Now, not every country invest so much into publicizing sports the way we do. As a matter of fact, as commentator Frank Deford points out, not every country has the sports that we have.
FRANK DEFORD: You want to talk about American exceptionalism? All right, I'll talk about American exceptionalism: Teams. More than any other nation, we are awash in teams. Basically, there's two reasons to account for this exceptionalism. First, most countries have only one team sport, soccer, that matters. Second, we're the only nation that concentrates on school sports, so never mind the multitudinous pro teams, we are devoted, not only to our college team, but to our high school team, as well.
And now, now we have a plethora of women's teams, too. And as if that's not enough real teams, now Americans also have fantasy teams.
Well, at a certain point, something has to give. It's a law of physics that you can only have so many teams per person. Apparently, the team sport that's given way the most is men's college basketball. It's the winter sport that's lost its hold on winter. Now, at last college hoops has its fleeting moment in the vernal equinox, March Madness. Its fun - you make out brackets. But it's not like other sports where you're familiar with the principals.
For instance, let's get back to fantasy football. Fans make up their own teams, yes, but they know who the players are. It's your fantasy, but it's real knowledgeable fantasy. By contrast, March Madness is like phantom basketball. It's more like a lottery. Who are these teams? Where did they come from? March Madness is upside-down. It's the surprises that are all the fun because the hot-shot teams publicize the same old dull coaches every year. Give me fantasy over coaches every time.
But who knows the players who actually play? The best ones up and leave after a season and maybe a visit or two to a classroom. So the players are strangers on mystery teams, some of which are bound to win and thus become Cinderellas. No wonder they call it Madness. Others sports playoffs feature champions at the end. College basketball features Cinderellas in the beginning.
Remember last year? I think it was last year. Or was last year Butler or Valpariso or Boise State? No, wait, Boise State is football. No, last year, Cinderella was some team from Florida that nobody had ever heard of. They were neat to watch and the coach had a gorgeous wife. Yeah, right, just like a man.
But that's the point: It's hard to remember the teams. We are overwhelmed with teams in America. Oh well, bring on the mysterious strangers. Don't forget your brackets. You can get back to Power Ball next week.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MONTAGNE: Commentator Frank Deford, he can be heard on this program every Wednesday.
And you're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.