March 13, 2008 6:26 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
It was a special number once, an emotional milestone, an achievement of a lifetime. Four years ago in this space, I attended exactly one hundred college basketball games in a single season and wrote something faintly humorous about each one. It was a journey that culminated in a loss. Because it always ends in a loss, that's just the way it works.
That loss was followed by a major personal victory: the work that resulted from my 100 Games Project transformed me from a jerk with a blog into an occasionally-respected national basketball commentator. Within days of completing the five-month task, several major media outlets contacted me about writing for them, and I ended up working with a certain four-letter entity.
I went to a lot of games during my first year with the Worldwide Leader, there in 2005-06, and was able to view and cover "The Year Of The Mid-Major" from a seat on press row, all the way to the Final Four in Indianapolis. I didn't get to 100 games that season, though -- only 93. I could have padded my stats with a lot more power conference games during the NCAA Tournament, but you and I know full well that I can't sit through that crap.
In 2006-07, I blew past the century mark on the Tuesday of Championship Week. My 100th was a true classic, that VCU-George Mason title game that was broken open late by big-shot superman Eric Maynor. I even wrote about it. I went on to 16 more contests in March, setting a single-season standard of one hundred sixteen that only the hardiest referee or AP stringer could ever match.
Today (Thursday, March 13, 2008) at the Atlantic 14 tourney in Atlantic City, I reached the 100-game plateau for the third time in four years. It just so happened to be an "upset," too -- in seed only, as No. 5 Saint Joseph's beat No. 4 Richmond 61-47 in the second game of a marathon four-quarterfinal day to advance to tomorrow's A-14 semis. What the game lacked in excitement it made up for in stultifying boredom.
Looking back over the season so far, it's certainly been the most ambitious itinerary yet, with trips to mid-major gyms in California, Texas, Florida. But 100 just isn't as special anymore, and not only because my arch-nemesis Steve Welmer has been in triple-digits for a week now. There just isn't that special round-number feeling anymore. I mentioned that this was my 100th of the season to somebody here on press row, and they said, "Oh. I thought you were already there. Or was that Welmer?" Damn Welmer, I'll never catch that guy.
One hundred once meant salvation, achievement, satisfaction. These days, it's simply, as Wikipedia puts it, the natural number following 99 and preceding 101. Since the thrill is long gone, maybe I should just sell the moment out to the highest bidder. For now, this season, the 2007-08 100 Games Project has been brought to you by "Atlantic 10" conference water, the cool and refreshing beverage with high-major packaging and mid-major taste.
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