One thing you can never say about our game is that it overstays its welcome.
For all but the lucky pocket of players and fans whose season didn't end in a meaningful loss, college basketball is quickly forgotten, gone, off the radar. For some, it's the pull of the new baseball season, but for most it's just time to go outside again.
Despite the warm weather, college hoops has the longest, coldest offseason of all. There's so little to report from April to October, you really only need one guy
to cover the whole beat. Teams change coaches, a few players might get picked in the Draft, and there's occasionally a bar fight or a tragic shooting, But on balance, there's not much to talk about.
Sure, you can try to milk some column inches out of the offseason, but that's mostly to spare the embarrassment of having NCAA Tournament articles spend five months as "most recent." But it's hard to get a hold of coaches to talk to -- they're usually out on the golf course, and when you finally reach them on their cellphones they ask you why you aren't out there too. Either that, or they're stowed away in clammy gyms, solemnly weeding through future talent.
Seven months out of the year, the college basketball world is a private, quiet, lonely vacuum. There is no hot stove, no summer league. There are no May scrimmages or June practices (thanks mostly to strict NCAA rules), and only a couple of recruit commitments warrant the type of coverage that breaks through to the national headlines. There's nowhere near enough material to keep college basketball from sinking down between the WNBA and NHL on the ESPN home page by the time August rolls around.
It would be one thing if this was a fringe or regional Division I sport like field hockey or bowling. But there's no denying the potency our game has inside its specified time and place, its macro appeal in a relatively micro timeframe. In March, everybody's a bracketologist; in April, nobody is. How is it that the NCAA Tournament can completely satiate public demand for men's college basketball, so much so that nobody talks about it for seven months -- save for a tight pocket of loopy obsessives?
I think the answer can be found in the common strains that bind cabin fever and March Madness in the DSM-IV-TR
. At its heart, college basketball is a cold, introspective and wintry game... or rather, something that can be used as a barrier against the frigid conditions outside.
To let college basketball in is to consciously acknowledge winter, and that's a terribly uncomfortable gear-grind (especially as one gets older). We gather in heated gyms and ride out the cold together, huddling close in bleacher seats with our damp overcoats beside us, wondering aloud if this is the year they put it all together and make a run.
And then, the run ends, spring comes, and we don't need that type of stuff anymore.
For most, there will be a trigger that begins the annual process towards March -- maybe it'll come by snowstorm or football's end, or perhaps the first Duke-North Carolina game on TV. But there are a few of us who dearly love the whole package, from beginning to end and top to bottom. And granted, any sport that celebrates its Opening Day with Vermont against New Orleans requires a certain level of strenuous dedication.
It'll be some time before the vast part of the country gives up autumn's ghost, and comes to join us in the toasty confines of the gymnasium.
But this is what we do: we take it upon ourselves to be the ones who turn on the lights and start the radiators. For our intents and purposes, the switch is back in the "on" position.
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So this is it: the third season of The Mid-Majority, and as such the third iteration of the site.
There are a lot of new additions, notably the installation of extensive NCAA Tournament metadata, and the expansion of the game database to include all results since the 1995-96 season. There are more new features than ever before (Team merchandise links! Budget data! GameGrids! Player-specific news feeds!), as well as the streamlining of many features that got hacked and fastened to last year's site. There'll be some exciting new stuff brought out in the next month that will make even more use of the cross-referencing capabilities that increased data provides.
And it does have to be noted, if only just once: in the effort to further make sense of a chaotic and sprawling sport with little central organization, there will be an error or 26. If you find a missing game or a reversed score in your travels around the site, please do all of us the courtesy of reporting it (using the handy feedback machine at the bottom of each page) instead of posting on some message board somewhere about how much of an idiot I am. Things will be fixed, and we'll all be the better for it.
But perhaps the biggest change will be a back-to-the-future type one -- this site a lot more like it was two years ago. I'll be around here four times a week with 2004-05 style roundups of hothothot mid-major action, Bally will make weekly appearances, and I'm pledging to be more regular with the mailbags. I'll still be showing up frequently at the WWLIS, and I'll also be recapping my travels over at a new improved Blue Ribbon site too, starting later this month.
I still don't know if any of his means that I'm still a "sports blogger" or not, or what that term even means anymore. More about that next time.
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