The debt is paid,
The verdict said,
The Furies laid,
The plague is stayed,
All fortunes made;
Turn the key and bolt the door,
Sweet is death forevermore.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Past
Approximately five months from now, this website will officially cease to be. Kaput. Gonzo. Curtains. Peace out Trout. ‘Til then (Delaware Fightin’ Blue) Hen.
No two ways about it, it’s sad. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that the Mid-Majority played a significant role in your life - or at least your winter - for a sizable portion of the last decade. If you’ve been here since the beginning, we salute you. You’ve seen the oh so humble beginnings
, the ESPN years
, the Sports Bubble
, and come within eight pixels
of busting that damn thing wide open.
Of course, even after this season, we’ll still be able to live in the past. Those memories you see here will exist long after we’ve ceased to expel new information into the increasingly cluttered cyberspace.
But we must be careful to not spend too much of our precious time in the bygone era. As L.P. Hartley wrote
, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” And if you walked out of our Mid-Majority world after the first season, and just reappeared this morning after a nine-year sabbatical (you might be interested to know we have a two-term African-American President, by the way), the noise coming from the college basketball world may sound like an unfamiliar tongue.
Butler in the Big East? What the hell happened to the WAC? Who are some of these schools that purport to be Division I? Grand Canyon? Incarnate Word? Why are all of these colleges switching conferences that seemed to make perfect sense? The “I Believe” chant is being done in NBA arenas?
Our beloved Red Line has become so blurred, it has been rendered obsolete, just as the website you’re reading will be soon.
But quit your cryin’ over there, we ain’t dead quite yet. We’ve got one more trip around this crazy college hoops world to go. While it will surely be far from perfect, it will be beautiful
, just like the nine that came before it were.
Conference affiliation may change, they can dress up the courts
any way they like, the rulebook may be fiddled with slightly. But, although we might get temporarily pissed off, deep down we know they can’t remove what makes Our Game special. Try as we might to get away from it, once this time of year rolls around, those gyms are calling us, begging us to come back in. And the second we get inside, we’re hooked. We’re suckers, but it’s so much damn fun, isn’t it?
We’re gluttons for punishment. Eventually, in one painful fashion after another, the hope is quelled, but - even after the Mid-Majority is long gone and forgotten - that hope will never be extinguished.✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
“What’s past is prologue.”
- William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Here’s the thing: We here at TMM now know our date of death. I mean, how awesome is that? Preparing for 2014-15? Fuck it. Saving money for Season 11? You’re kidding. All that’s left is to make TMMX the most glorious five months the mid-major college basketball world has ever seen. And with your help (and a little from the teams we cover), that’s Plan A. There is no Plan B.
I’ve been charged with being the Traveler for the Mid-Majority’s final trip around the college basketball world. Sadly, I am not Kyle Whelliston. Nor will I be able to play him on the Internet. But I have been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time, and I will make it my mission in the coming weeks and months to give this website that has meant so much to us the last lap it deserves.
I could use your help. One of the beautiful things about the Mid-Majority is the feeling that we are all in this together. AOUEOU, if you will
. If you see something interesting or noteworthy, don’t be afraid to tell me, and I will do my darndest to reply to any inquiries you might have.
In preparing for the season, I realized how daunting a task this will be. With nearly 300 schools under our auspices, it’s humanly impossible to see everyone in person, and I feel terrible about it already. I want to tell every story, see each gym in Our Game, leave no basketball unbounced.
But time is an inflexible bastard, both for me and the teams we deal with. Try to sort everything out and suddenly November has turned into December, and then conference play has begun, and soon it’s do-or-die time in early March. Where did the days go?
Of course, who am I to argue with legendary basketball fan Leonardo da Vinci when he said, “Time stays long enough for those who will use it.”
God, I hope he’s right. There’s so much I have lined up, so many teams and people that we already know deserve to have their story told, and so many others that we’ve yet to be exposed to, but surely will as fall turns to winter and into early spring.
We’ll have more about what “Go.”
means to us in our final season early next week, but sufficed to say that it’s the word that sums up what we’re about more than any other. Television is a wonderful invention that has changed our world, and the Internet has made almost all Division I basketball games available directly into your bedroom.
But, if you’re here, you’re likely well aware that the real experience in the college basketball world is being there. The sound of the ball bouncing. The hush of the crowd as the shooter releases a potential #superhoop and the roar as that potential energy becomes kinetic when the ball hits nothing but the bottom of the net. The band in the background at the time out. The Title-R compliant cheerleading squads. The heat in some gyms and the incongruous cold in others. As much as technology will continue to improve the experience for the people that aren’t actually in attendance, it will never compare.
And so off I will go into the night, to places and lands I’ve never been, on very little sleep, with an old Toyota Camry that is likely facing an imminent demise of its own as this season concludes. Is it healthy? Nope. Is it financially responsible? Are you kidding? Will it be worth it? Well, we’ll have to find out the answer to that last question together, won’t we?✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
“Death has the final word over narcissism: you can’t be the center of the universe if you don’t exist.
- Chris Owen
I read that quote somewhere once
. See, the Mid-Majority was never about being the center of anything, really. It never aspired further than to be what it was and what it continues to be, a chronicle of those “other” Division I college basketball teams, the ones that show up at the bottom of a ticker on the short end of a lopsided score early in the season and then disappear until - for a select few - there is some short-lived notoriety. Even then, they get pushed aside like a sideshow when the main event is ready to begin.
That perceived lack of ambition gets us some strange looks from people that spend most of their time watching their major conference teams on television. After all, who goes to a concert just to see the opening act play their 45 minutes and then get quickly ushered off stage so the recognizable name can set up their million-dollar pyrotechnics and give the people what they want to see?
Of course, in our world, it’s even worse. Our underfunded, smaller squads can avoid the conglomerates during conference play, but eventually - if they’re fortunate enough to survive the cannibalistic gauntlet - they have to somehow try to shine on the same stage in mid-March. We know by now that most of the time that doesn’t end well for our us.
Except for the times that it does. You can probably tick the list off faster than me: Northern Iowa, Norfolk St., Lehigh, Ohio, Northwestern St., Morehead St., Northern Iowa, Davidson, and - of course - the magical trio of VCU, George Mason, and Butler.
I forgot one, of course, our most recent heroes from Dunk City, Florida Gulf Coast. Although their coach didn’t wait around when a new opportunity arose in the offseason, FGCU is the perfect example of why we’re here. The Eagles appeared on no lists of mid-majors to watch or sleepers or even teams sleeping. They weren’t mentioned at all until they received an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament by winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament, in which they weren’t even the top seed.
You going to tell me you saw that one coming? No freaking way. Even if your name is Malcolm Gladwell.
If you didn’t notice, Gladwell (as of this writing) currently is No. 2 on the non-fiction New York Times best-seller list with his new book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants”
. Seems directly in our wheelhouse, no? And, for the most part it is, Gladwell writes about notable unexpected upsets in history (non-NCAA Tournament version) and sheds some light on how when people with smaller numbers or resources can think outside the box and go against conventional thinking, they have a much better chance of succeeding than most people think. In fact, he argues, from the victory of David on down, most “upsets” can be explained through superior strategy or attacking a problem from an unorthodox perspective.
He even has an entire chapter on how lesser basketball Davids can defeat Goliaths, citing a seventh-grade girls team from California that finished a couple of games from the national title, even though their coach have never been in charge of a team in any sport before taking over his daughter’s squad the year before. How did he do it?
He pressed full-court the entire game. Yup, that was the magical secret. You listening, Jim Engles
and Frankie Allen
? You too could be Final Four-bound if you’d just commit to relentless full-court pressure every game.
Shockingly, 12-year olds didn’t quite have the handle or strength enough to break pressure consistently and this team would pounce, even though by Gladwell’s own admission they couldn’t even do most of the fundamentals well, at least compared to their opponents.
Therein lies the problem, not only with Gladwell, but the state of sportz
and, really, our society in general.
We want everything to be simple.
It’s not that Gladwell is wrong, and that’s part of the dilemma. Most of the upsets on battlefields in history have been due to thinking outside the box. Along the same lines, many of our best TMM memories come with strategies - whether for one game or for an entire season or more - that “major” schools wouldn’t touch with a 7-foot center.
Loyola Marymount, Princeton, VCU, and even Butler (and surely you can name a few more) have broken through over the years by doing things a little bit differently. As we know better than anyone, they had to.
But, as we could also attest to under oath, how many teams in Our Game haven’t made their way onto the national scene? How many young coaches have we seen come in with fresh ideas and ready to take on the world, only to fade away a few years later without much fanfare?
A lot more than end up in the latter column than they do in the former.
It’s not that straightforward, is it? It never will be.
✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
But when no one else does, we believe. There has to be room somewhere for belief, even in the face of daunting odds.
We know we were eight pixels away once from a national championship. Things are different now, but in early November, the slate is clean, everyone believes that maybe, just maybe - computers and predictions be damned - it could be them at the Final Four in front of 85,000 people in five months.
The Mid-Majority is ready for its tenth and final season. Won’t you join us for the ride?
With all due respect to Mr. Emerson and his band of transcendentalists, we’re not quite ready to turn the key and bolt the door quite yet.
In fact, come the first week of April, we’re hoping that our misshapen key opens the door to the most ostentatious sports bubble of them all, and the life of the Mid-Majority will end in the manner we all have dreamed it will, a school that beat the odds and six other opponents in March and April.
Will it happen? Our head knows it likely won’t. But that shouldn’t stop us. As the biggest dreamer of them all, one Don Quixote, told us, “Until death it is all life.”
So in our final time through the constellations, let us live it up, shall we? We have a beautiful season to watch.
© 2004-2014 The Mid-Majority. All content is the property of its authors.