March Madness Bipolar Disorder
It used to be conventional wisdom among hoops fans that college basketball is far superior to the NBA product. The crowds were more energetic, the players less blase, and the entire spectacle was said to be fresher and more electric than the mercenary pros. But of course television (the NCAA has a $6 billion multi-year TV contract) and the obscene amounts of money it injects into the proceedings has done its best to foul thing up. Like everything else it touches in American life--the news and politics especially--the tube first observes, then changes the very structure of the thing it's observing, before finally beginning to corrupt it from within. The NCAA basketball tourney may not be quite so thoroughly corrupt a system as, say, local TV news, but give it time. It's working on it.
John Feinstein, a sports author who can stake a legitimate claim as the preeminent writer on this subject of March Madness, recently complained in the Washington Post about the increasingly self-important tournament selection committee. He wrote: "they have come to believe through the years that when they select the 65 team NCAA Tournament field that they are doing work only slightly more important and grueling than finding a cure for cancer." They are, after all, making choices on which millions of dollars and the comparative institutional prestige of dozens of colleges and universities depend.
Last year at this time I reviewed Feinstein's behind-the-scenes book about the NCAA tournament. In that book, he tried to keep some perspective about how these are only games, after all. But much of the rest of the country tends to go a little overboard about things. It's as if everyone stops working for two weeks to obsess over their tournament brackets. The cultural excess prompted humorist Andy Borowitz (a native of Shaker Heights) to write this sardonic little spoof, in which he pretends to report that the NCAA has officially renamed March Madness "March bipolar disorder." If you've got it bad, perhaps you can occupy yourself between games by reading old articles from this specialized online archive, said to contain a half million articles about college hoops. Knock yourself out.