With this blog posting, I would like to offer in my own way, five different resources that might help you enjoy the phenomena that is March Madness a little more. Perhaps your bracket is already busted or maybe you are sitting in Vegas, Reno or AC right now and want to learn a little more. Allow these articles, podcast, and videos to expand your knowledge of one of the greatest events in all sports.
I have a feeling that many college students have sidelined their majors in sociology, accounting, finance or history in favor of one that captures their attention, hearts, and minds for a solid month. It's braketology
For those unfamiliar with this phenomena, America Magazine—the Jesuit review of faith and culture—offers a thoughtful podcast "How ESPN's Joe Lunardi Invented Bracketology." Lunardi, a self-proclaimed bracketologist is also an administrator at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. I love the way he describes the influence his Jesuit education had on his career and more.
2. Survive and Advance
If you haven't heard this phrase already, I will put smart money that you will between now and April 1/April 2 (the dates of the NCAA Women's and Men's finals). Given the "one and done" nature of the tourney (more on that phrase in a minute), the goal for every team is to survive. To survive means that one's team can and will advance and get to the next round, each of which are well named: the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight, the Final Four and the Championship Round.
Many teams will barely survive...but that's all it takes to advance: a buzzer beater, an epic three, a clutch foul, a missed free throw. Pay attention to how this phrase can and will come to life. And in between the games, make some time to watch one of the best in ESPN's 30 for 30 Series: Survive and Advance. The blog posting "Survive and Advance: Not a Given" captures but a bit of the magic.
3. One and Not Done
Though the legendary Jim Valvano is no longer with us, I dare say there is another Italian American men's basketball coach—a paisan—that holds a similar charisma, the University of Kentucky's John Calipari. For those who want to now try me for blasphemy, I urge you to watch one of the latest installments in ESPN's 30 for 30 Series: "One and Not Done."
I pressed play, harboring my own suspicions about the man. I came looking to smell a rat in Coach Cal. Instead, I found myself asking questions new to me and new to what it means to be a coach. I think the Director's Take says it best
"He has supporters who deify him. And then there are those who believe he is Satan on the sidelines."
The problem of John Calipari is the problem of college sports. Why should the person who is one of the best in his generation at what he does - a national champion and a hall of famer - make so many people angry? How come all his players love him, while so many others hate him? And why would the person who prepares more people for successful careers in their chosen field make people question the very enterprise of college basketball?
The answer is as complicated as the man himself. But here's what's not the problem with John Calipari: you never have to wonder what he is thinking or feeling, and if you give him trust and openness, you'll get nothing but the same in return. He's funny, moody, generous, spiteful... in short, he is exceedingly human. If you already love Coach Cal or hate him, seeing the man presented raw and in full may not change your mind one way or the other. But my goal with this film was to present as complete and honest a portrait of a human being as I could - one who looks in the mirror every day and doesn't see the millionaire coach looking back at him, but the faces of the immigrant coal miners and laborers who lived and died in poverty to give him a fighting chance to make it. The American Dream is beautiful, but ambition can be ugly. John Calipari doesn't see a contradiction in that.I encourage you to watch this 2-hour video and then watch the Kentucky Wildcats, a 5-seed play. You will end up psychoanalyzing the coach and how the team works in the process. Enjoy.
4. Aw C'mon Ref
As the granddaughter and niece of both collegiate football and basketball referees, it is in my DNA to respect and sometimes even defend the zebra. I've heard every possible complaint against them—biased, one-sided and blind. Feel free to insert your own. At our best, we know we should never let our wins and losses come down to what the referee did or did not see or call. We do.
John Feinstein, a sports writer I always enjoy has penned a thoughtful piece in the Washington Post. His words remind us that behind the stripes is a human being. If you want to continue to hate on the officiating, don't read.
As we know in life, all good things come to an end. Fortunately for college basketball fans, it does so with a video—a wonderful tribute to the many colors, emotions, allegiances, defeats, and victories that is March Madness.
Survive and Advance