For all that is haywire about college basketball — and the list is as long as a Plumlee’s inseam — its postseason tournament comes along to offer its profound apologies.
College basketball is like a Carnival cruise. You probably don’t want to know what’s going on below decks; just trust that you will end up at a place where the view is great.
It is for the tournament that we endure the season of diminished talent, of officials calling fouls as if they worked on commission, of any game between SEC equals and of the hypocrisy of capitalism openly flourishing everywhere except in the locker room.
College basketball can break all the promises it wants from November to February, so long as it makes good in March.
We call upon the tournament — which began this week and ends April 8 at the Georgia Dome — to sustain and renew us again.
We remember that 30 years ago, North Carolina State’s over-caffeinated Jim Valvano was running around a crowded floor in Albuquerque looking for somebody, anybody, to hug. Lorenzo Charles had plucked a wayward shot from the thin New Mexican air and dunked it home at the buzzer to beat Houston and produce the upset that has served as the signature of this tournament every day since.
Twenty years ago it was Michigan’s Chris Webber calling a timeout he didn’t have, a particularly ruinous type of deficit spending.
Ten years ago it was 18-year-old Carmelo Anthony, the Syracuse temp worker, lighting up the tournament and winning the only Orange title to date. He has amassed a fortune in the NBA for work not nearly so distinguished.
This year, who’s to say? But we are due something worthy of bending this page of the tournament almanac and keeping it bookmarked forever.
March Madness will slip into April Angst, and somewhere along the way there is guaranteed one moment, or three, that will yank even the distracted viewers from their couches or away from their work cubicles.
You will scream out loud when some 11th seed from a state you have never visited is a play away from surviving and advancing. If only that shooting guard whose name you will forget in 10 minutes would just make the front end of the one-and-one.
There are game-winning dog piles to join vicariously. There is some cute little university to swear allegiance to for however long it draws a tournament breath. There is crushing defeat to share in until either the next game or the next beer shows up, whichever comes first.
No telling when any of it might happen, so don’t turn away. The NCAA tournament remains the best excuse to skip work since an abscessed tooth or the birth of one of your earlier children.
If you have invested so much as $5 in a bracket pool, by God, that buys you a ticket to rage at every turnover, glory in every knock-down 3-pointer and to bore anyone within earshot with tales of your bracket’s demise.
Oh, and they tell us that this tournament has the makings of one of the most unsettling ever, given the type of season that has preceded it. No team has stepped forward as anything obviously special, leaving us with an amorphous mass of long limbs and ugly uniforms capable of generating an infinite combination of results. It is the ultimate 68-number Sudoku puzzle.
Let the sweet confusion begin.
Like any other road to Atlanta, this one is almost impossible to navigate sanely.
Only in this case, you’ll want to plan your day so as to be right in the thick of it at the height of the madness.