Published March 10, 2010
Ah, March. Except for that whole "Julius Caesar being brutally stabbed to death," thing (now THAT was an upset that probably threw a few brackets for a loop), it's a heck of a feel-good month.
It has everything. Desperation. Desperadoes. Prognostication. Dominoes. It has tubas and cheerleaders. Manic defense and maniacs in face paint. Shots that fall and shots that don't. Then it's over. And then it's only just begun.
March. It comes in like a lion. And then it roars.
It's a ride of a lifetime, in every conference, all month. It's full of emotion and heroics and chaos and anticipation and kicks to the gut.
People -- that should read, several BCS-conference coaches who think "good" seasons should be "rewarded," who don't like the uncertainty of being on the bubble -- want to expand the NCAA tournament, get rid of the drama, just let everyone in. What they don't get is that it's already expanded. This is it. We've already started. Everyone -- that is, everyone except for the entitled -- is already all in.
Wofford. The Terriers won the Southern Conference tournament Monday night to earn their first NCAA tournament berth. They'd stormed the court when the horn sounded, sprinted when the light on the backboard went red, all of them, together. Running, leaping, hugging. Dancing. They're already dancing, even though it seems March has just begun. Wofford.
"This is what we played for our whole lives!" a tearful Noah Dahlman screamed into a WYFF-TV microphone in the aftermath. They were hugging. They were crying. They were giddy. The TV guy couldn't hold back a grin. Wofford. This is why we love this month. This whole month.
They've already started. The Rides of March.
March is sweaty, giddy, dog-piling team photos. March is climbing the ladder, literally, wearing the most precious fashion accessory imaginable -- a nylon necklace money just can't buy. March is rushing the court, looking for someone to hug. March is collapsing to the hardwood, weeping in a crumpled heap. Four years of dreaming and it's all come down to this.
And we love it. We love it all. We're with them, on these rides, somehow. Our hearts race with them, stop with them, break with them. For a day or two, these teams become our teams. Their dreams are our dreams. They grab us, if only through a highlights recap. If even just through a TV screen.
"Wanting to bond psychologically with others is normal -- so normal it's part of human nature," University of Richmond professor Don Forsyth wrote in an essay on March Madness for the Richmond Times-Dispatch .
So don't worry, it's normal to be crazy this magical month. Go ahead. In sports bars and living rooms, we, too, go along for the rides. We, too, mist up as we watch them dog pile and rush the court. We, too, high five and hug. Maybe it's because they make us feel that anything is possible -- and for a few days in March, anything is.
North Texas. Confetti. Craziness. Wild whoops and giddy jigs. "You don't want to sit there on Selection Sunday," Mean Green coach Johnny Jones would tell assembled media at the postgame press conference last night. No. You don't want to sit there. Not when you can start dancing right now.
North Texas! The Sun Belt tournament champions raised that trophy to the sky last night. They brought that net back to earth. Jones had talked about "controlled passion," he'd likened his players' anticipation to waiting to play in the Super Bowl. The Sun Belt title? The Super Bowl? With a straight face? Yes. That's what's so magical about this wonderful month.
Butler. A ranked team. An old hand at this. But the Bulldogs still snapped up those T-shirts, still did a giddy dance. Northern Iowa -- this isn't expected to be the apex of its season -- but the Panthers still gathered for that team picture, raised their fingers to the sky.
Fingers. Everywhere you look this week, fingers. Leaping and hugging and court storming and tears. And fingers. Yes, they may end up 16 seeds. But for a few days in March, even 16 seeds are No. 1.
Now come the big schools, the old powers, the titans. The rides continue; they've only just begun. This is why we love it. The Rides of March. This month comes in like a lion -- and then it roars.