You've entered a community of creative individuals who have come together to celebrate the greatest game ever invented. Here at this site, we view the sport of college basketball a bit differently than the rest. Some would say that our focus is too narrow, but our concentration on the mid-major segment of the game allows us to take a deeper and more intimate look into our teams and the games that they play. Many of the essays contained here provide a story of the author's favorite squad from the perspective of one who knows them well, but we're also challenged to venture out to new locations and tell our readers about the unique experiences we find away from home. Regardless, each report requires the author to be there, in person, and to present a story of that visit - what we saw, what we heard, and what we felt at that point in time. Each writer has his or her own style, and within these essays you can find drama, humor, jubilation, and sadness, sometimes all within a single report. Come on in, and enjoy our contributions, because we enjoy sharing them. Of course, as with anything else, there's some anxiety in getting involved with something new. So, in an effort to ease those anxieties, here are the three key concepts you'll need to know in order to fully understand The Mid-Majority.
The Red Line
In all forms of competition, you need to be able to differentiate the "us" versus the "them." We don't celebrate every team here, and the Red Line provides us with that necessary distinction. Nearly all of us have been in real-life situations in which we felt that the deck was stacked against us, where others had opportunities and advantages that were not available to us. Whether those occurred in athletic endeavors, academic settings, the business world, or some other environment, these are the challenges that motivate us, inspire us, and shape our character most significantly. Can we overcome the obstacles and succeed in spite of the inherent disadvantages that we face? If so, these are the triumphs that we most savor.
Teams above the Red Line have bigger and newer arenas, better practice facilities, more modern training rooms, larger support staffs, more luxurious travel arrangements, and larger financial packages from the major sports TV networks. They pay their coaches huge salaries, and if he doesn't work out, they can afford to eat the contract, throw the bum out, and lure a better one with another huge salary. You can see them play on national TV every week, can hear them discussed on major sports talk radio shows, and can read about them on just about every newspaper and website - except this one.
Teams on our side of the line tend to have older arenas, where we generally focus on renovating and restoring rather than tearing down and building anew. As such, we play in some of the most beautiful and historic buildings in our game: the Palestra, the Rose Hill Gymnasium, Hinkle Fieldhouse, and dozens more, and our essays can give the reader a sense of the character of these wonderful old buildings.
Our teams pay our coaches what we can, and when they win, we struggle to keep them from being vultured by the teams from the other side. When we lose our coaches, we wish them well and replace them either with a young up-and-comer or with an older grizzled veteran who was chewed up and spit out on the other side. Either way, we stay hungry and motivated.
The Red Line is represented by teams in conferences with an average athletic budget of over $20 million and a men's basketball budget of over $2 million. History has shown that teams above the red line defeat teams below the line about six times out of seven. The exception, the one time out of every seven - that is triumph that we most savor. That is the Red Line Upset! We track them on the front page of our site, we monitor them on Twitter, and we celebrate them in our hearts.
This Game Will Hurt You
One time out of seven: not the best odds. As with all forms of competition, a loss is one of the two possible outcomes we face, and with our inherent disadvantages, we incur more than our share of them. Suffice it to say that we don't experience a lot of victory parades here.
Losing sucks. We hurt when our teams lose, and when that happens, our essays reflect our pain. Those reports can be difficult to read, and they definitely are painful to write, but the passion that we feel comes through in those stories.
In the midst of the losing and the pain, there are also victories. Victories that thrill us, that vindicate us, that nearly offset the pain of losing. Sometimes, our teams string together several wins a row, and perhaps even a Red Line Upset. Some of our teams dominate their conferences and their post-season tournaments; others come from nowhere in early March and punch a ticket to the Big Dance. We congratulate those teams, and rally around them; however, we also pay tribute to those who fought valiantly, yet came up short of their ultimate goal.
In the NCAA tournament, as the number of our teams dwindle, we follow those that remain with a more focused enthusiasm. We give a part of ourselves to them. All of us, each of us. We lift them, and they lift us. We celebrate the greatest time of the year. Then, suddenly, at a moment that we can't predict in advance, it ends. It hurts.
It Always Ends in a Loss
A six word phrase, it is the black cloud that hovers over The Mid-Majority each and every season. The more optimistic of us quietly scoff at this notion, convinced that the outcome that has cursed all of our teams each and every year will come to an end this time - that this will be the year that the Chosen One of our teams breaks through and remains as the one light left non-extinguished after the last game is played - that one of Our Teams will be the one rained upon by a confetti shower and the subject of the One Most Shining Moment - that one of Us will finally, in the words of Hickory High's Merle Webb, "win this game for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here".
As for the rest of us, we've seen this play out too many times before, and have been lured into believing the unbelievable. Maybe George Mason could get just two more wins? Perhaps VCU can climb two more steps to the top of the mountain? Could Butler win just once more? Can Gordon Hayward really make this shot?
No. No. No. No.
Not yet, at least.
It always ends in a loss, but even the most cynical of us have begun to believe in recent years that maybe, just maybe, in the most unlikely of circumstances, that it might not. Our intellectual side continues to assure us that there's only the one ultimate outcome, but our heart sees Our Teams get closer and closer to the apex and we wonder.
What if it's really different this time? What if This Year becomes Our Year? What if?