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Your guide to watching the tournament

Let's face it ... we've got to know our limits. You don't just go out and run a marathon because you jog a couple times a week.

You've done a few two-hour episodes of "American Idol" and you think this is easy, this watching-television business. You think you can take on watching the first four days of the NCAA tournament, no problem.

Well, let me tell you. Don't go into this lightly. This is not for everyone. Not everyone has trained for this for years, like me. But fine, you can't be dissuaded. You've come up with an excuse for missing work (gallbladder surgery, they've got to buy that), and you're going to do it this year.

You've come to the right place. Let me be your guide. Your guide to surviving the March Madness TV marathon.

First, there's the physical toll to think about. You're talking long periods of extreme physical inactivity, multiple days of multiple hours of television, broken up only by the occasional fist pump (mild upset), Karate kick (major upset) or bathroom break (stomach upset). How can one possibly get through this without severe muscle atrophy setting in?

Four words: The Herschel Walker workout. Yes, you'll recall that part of the legend was that when he watched TV growing up, Georgia's own John Henry would do pushups and sit-ups whenever a commercial came on. He's the only couch potato in history to run a 4.3 40 and look like the Hulk.

Now, I'm not suggesting you actually do this. Lord, no. But you should tell people you're doing it. I know I am.

No, I'm thinking more along the lines of a defibrillator. I mean, we're talking buzzer beaters, catatonic amounts of television, no exercise for several days and bad food. We don't want your heart to actually stop. Get a good jolt - CLEAR! - and you're right back in the action. Refreshed. Ever notice how Clark Kellogg sometimes seems a little more "into it" coming back from commercial?

Also, forget the bracket. Burn it.

It'll go up in smoke in a few short hours anyway.

People will always tell you filling out a bracket is half the fun of the NCAA tournament. These are the same people who end up raving like crazed lunatics by day three, cursing out random mid-majors they hadn't previously heard of and swearing blood oaths against famous coaches who fall short. Didn't everyone always say Bobby Knight was a genius? That guy screwed me every year!

Sorry. The point is: you have enough stress in your life. Pace yourself. Every tournament starts with great hoopla, with great anticipation. And then by the end of that first night, you're exhausted. Your hair is frazzled, your nerves are shot, your eyes are glazed over and you need a shower. Oh, and there are three more days of this to go.

This is where you can hit the wall: "Day two sets in. Morale is low ..."

What do they say when you've got a newborn baby? You sleep when the baby sleeps. Same thing. You rest when Greg Gumbel rests. There are breaks in the games for this, time you could use to get some fresh air, pay bills, spend some time with your family or, more importantly, sleep. Oh, sure, it probably won't be deep sleep. You'll probably toss and turn and have fitful dreams. No matter. You need to stop to regain your strength. Keep your focus.

No one said Everest was easy. Not even in brand-new boots.