Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Stunning Development. If You Know Me Personally You Might Want To Sit Your Ass Down

This college basketball season:

I have watched a grand total of one half of one game, Texas-UConn back in November or maybe early December.

I didn't even follow goings on by watching SportsCenter, College Game Night, looking at polls, seeking out information on line etc. Not even UConn or Arizona, my 2 favorite teams by a mile.

This Thursday & Friday will be the first time in my life that I didn't not take vacation days (or skip class) and post up at a sportsbar for 12 hours each on Thursday and Friday, then again on Saturday & Sunday for 8 hours each, for a grand total of 50 hours in an 80 hour span.

I didn't watch the Selection Show on Sunday.

Not only have I not filled out my brackets yet, it is Tuesday night and I haven't even looked at one. If you named a team I couldn't tell you whether they were even in the tournament, let alone what region they are in or what seed they are.

Those that know me have by now fainted and are passed out on the floor. For the rest:

In college and several years thereafter, I watched upwards of 250 games each season. I kept a giant 3 ring notebook with a page for every team from a major basketball conference and one for each of the good mid-majors too; on the page was their schedule and result of every game, as well as random notes and observations. I also kept my own weekly poll of the top 50 teams as I saw them, with each of the top 25 or so team's losses listed out in a separate column, because it helped me to know who had beaten the top teams and racked up quality wins. I always wanted to try to see any team that I thought had any chance of making the NCAA tournament at least 2 or 3 times; this meant that often I stayed up until 2 a.m to watch the Long Beach States, Pepperdines, Gonzagas, Nevadas, Northern Arizonas, and Utah States of the world. ANd as the East Coast Pimp for the PAC10, I always watched the late night Thursday PAC10 game of the week. I hand wrote out and filled in brackets. For the conference tournaments. You get the idea.

All of that in preparation for the NCAA Tournament, which was a 3 week orgy of bliss, especially the first 4 days which were like a 96 hour Christmas Day. I enjoyed having all that knowledge in my brain from watching so many games, because the NCAA Tournament is all about matchups and the best way to understand matchups is to have watched the teams play and learn what their tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses were; this is much more useful than just seeing scores, results, and rankings. It would then be fun, for instance, when others would be randomly picking upsets out of their ass because there are always upsets, but I would be picking them because I knew that a highly ranked team couldn't do shit against a team that played a solid 2-3 zone, or I would tell anyone that would listen in 2001 that I thought Utah State would beat Ohio State because they had a point guard named Bernard Rock that was the best player in the country that no one had ever heard about, who was quicker than any point guard that OSU had faced all year, and who was capable of putting the team on his back and bossing a game. And then smiling when it happened at all of the dudes at the next table in the sportsbar who told me I was fucking baked when we were chatting early in the game. It was also fun to be hip to great players and dangerous teams long before they did well in the tournament and were on the tip of everyone's tongue, in the same way that you feel cooler than the average cats when you get hip to a band long before they blow up and become loved by the masses. Hell yeah I know that Harold "The Show" Arceneaux is a total badass: I told you that shit last week- pass the pretzels.

Then starting about 5 or 6 years ago my interest started to wane a bit, mostly because so many more underclassmen were leaving early for the NBA {and so many had no business doing so, but that is not to the point}, and as a result teams had so much less continuity than in prior years. Any freshman or sophomore that kicked ass would leave, and more and more team's entire identities were changing not every 2 to 3 years but every single year. This was naturally disappointing. Case in point was Texas in 2003, an awesome team that I was really high on and loved to watch, that had no senior starters. They made it to the Final Four, and star sophomore TJ Ford, the best and most exciting player on the team, said that he was 110% committed to return to Texas for his junior year. Shortly after Texas lost in the Final Four, Ford announced that he was entering the NBA draft. The next season, although Texas was very good, I was disappointed and less enthusiastic than I would have been each time I watched them because the team was not nearly as exciting and good as they would have been with Ford. I know that is only 1 example, but this seemed to be happening more and more all over the place, and as a result my insane level of interest began to slide.

The last couple of years I followed the sport more casually, then ramped up in February and by March I had a mini version of the notebook going and was a geeked as ever.

Last year I couldn't get into it so much, and didn't watch much at all until early March, and then I ramped up in the final week.

But this year I never could get into it, and when I would try to watch I found that it couldn't hold my interest for more than a few minutes. I wondered all year if the fire would be lit in March, and I am frankly as surprised as anyone that it hasn't been.

I am guessing that a good part of it is moving to SF: being on PST means that the early weekend games are at least half over by the time I get home from work, and the fact that there are so many new and fun ways for me to spend my free time probably directly resulted in far less nights sitting on the couch watching ball.

I also wonder if any of it has to do with the fact that every year I get a year farther away from these kids in age, like the bizarro meaning of the epic line in Dazed And Confused about high school chicks: "I keep getting older, and they stay the same age". But I still like college football {although my insano passion for watching every CFB game in America each week has also subsided a bit as well to be honest}, and I love watching Arsenal matches more than ever, and half the team is college aged kids, so who knows if this is relevant or not. But I do think as I have gotten older I have become interested in various and different things, and at the end of the day some things naturally get squeezed out. I guess in some respects my following of soccer has replaced college hoops; these two have been inverse to each other over the last 10 years, while college football has basically stayed the same.

I have already had lots of the usual people ring me up this week to ask me for my insight and opinion on the brackets, and to say "thanks alot asshole, I'm SOL now" because I don't have any good dope to give them, but I now know less about the teams this year than damn near anyone.

So it's unchartered territory for me this year. I will be super awkward to be at work on Thursday & Friday, watching only 1 feed on CBS on the Slingbox and following the rest of the games online. But I know one thing: I will be much, much less bitter this year about losing whatever pool I end up entering to some old lady who picks the national champions because their uniforms are her favorite color or because her niece went to that school.

The real question I wonder about is: will the fire get lit on Thursday at 9 a.m.? Will I be off hiking/biking/exploring Northern California all day Saturday & Sunday, or will I be inside a sportsbar glued to the games? At this point I really don't know what will happen.


ATL_eagle said...

Wait until you have kids...you'll be saying: "Arsenal, I think I've heard of them. They play soccer, right?" I totally relate, while I still watch tons of CFB and CBB my once mighty knowledge of MLB, NBA and the NFL is diminished. I don't even know if I could name 10 guys in the NHL. But I change a mean diaper.

Kanu said...

Yes, I have seen that first hand with my sister and her children.

Don't know how well I articulated this, since Blogger ate this post and I rewrote it at like 1 a.m., but the trippy thing about college hoops is that it is not so much an inability to carve out time to follow it, but rather that as a sport it no longer captures my interest and entertains me the way it used to. I mean, hell, I get up at 7 a.m. and 4 a.m. and even drive to bars at that time to catch Arsenal matches, because I am into it that much. Somehow I have gone from that level with CBB to not enthused at all- when I'm on my couch in the evening I'll turn a game on and after 3 minutes I'm flipping the channels for something else.

I changed my niece's diaper I think 3 times, so I assure you that I have mad respect for those of you that do it on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

It happens. I used to spend a lot more time tracking rugby and Formula 1; those both went by the wayside...

Incidentally, I don't think that I have ever filled out a March Madness bracket. But for CBB purposes I am the anti-old-Kanu; the USC - Wazzoo game I watched last weekend might have been the only time I've ever actually watched one in its entirety on television.

Anonymous said...

I was shocked when you told me. I can't believe that your new boss doesn't have to find some way to cover for the Th/Friday games. Lucky dude.

Hope you enjoy your new found freedom. As atl_eagle said, wait until you have kids. Although, with Garrett getting older and into sports, we are watching progressivly more. You may swing back around.

Unknown said...

Hella sucks wicked arse = growing up (older).

Kanu said...

The Hit! Best of luck to your Salukis this week my friend. May you wave the magical pink wand and pull them through...