At this time each year even the casual sports fan is reminded just how grand the spectacle of college athletics has become south of the border. Heroes are made on the hard court and for at least one year, that glory will last entrenched within March Madness lore.

Buzzer-beating shots, upsets and breakout stars once again make a contribution to the nightly highlight reel, assembling countless bandwagon followings along the way. At work Canadians fill out brackets to, ever so slightly, involve themselves in all of the excitement.

Undoubtedly, someone will pick a dark horse and until the curtains close on that Cinderella story, for a moment “that guy” can play the role of all-foreseeing sports guru. There is something about this madness for everyone. It is all too easy for one to get caught up in the frenzy of sold out stadiums and exhaustingly in-depth television coverage. The Marvel at such wonders, for me, leaves me wanting more from Canadian university sport.

Too often, it seems that people forget about the true underdog spirit. While so readily throwing support behind a given team within the NCAA tournament, Canadian fans overlook the sports right here on home soil.

Most remain complacent with the idea that the CIS will never match up and certainly with an attitude like that it remains impossible. It is foolish to compare the two, for starters, but aiming for the top never hurt anyone.

The CIS will never size-up to the hundreds of teams and billions of dollars that comprise the NCAA - our schools are simply fewer and smaller in size.

We would be hard-pressed, here at McMaster, to fit 18,000 people into Burridge Gymnasium. With a capacity of 2,200, it would be simply impossible. So instead of looking at that as a shortcoming, Canadian sports fans should focus on what is possible.

Smaller venues should make for easy sellouts. Shorter seasons promote intense competition and less money-involved means more sport.

With even a fraction of the seemingly effortless zest that we yearn for March Madness, major improvements could be made to how we view campus sports here in the north.

After all, paying attention to CIS sports is far from a chore nowadays, especially since larger events have been receiving national television coverage on a steady increase over the past few years.

This past football season more people than ever paid attention to the CIS, evident through sold out games, storybook rivalries and a record setting 48th edition of the Vanier Cup.

Later in the year, The Score television network provided coverage of the CIS men’s basketball tournament in Ottawa, and although the product was decibels away from madness - there was marked improvement from years past. Even my CIS-apathetic roommates found themselves glued to the television for both football and basketball.

Perhaps that is too much to ask, but if given a chance, CIS sports can be an infectious pastime.

Admittedly, before coming to Mac or working at the Silhouette, CIS sports were situated in obscurity for me. Not long after spending Saturday afternoons at Ron Joyce, however, I found myself thinking that the Canadian brand of collegiate athletics was the best-kept secret in sports.

I found myself able to follow these sports with the passion of a true fan. I could proudly say that I was rooting for “my team” without having to pledge some manufactured allegiance to the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams for a few weeks.

Forget what you know; CIS sports are right in front of you and it’s surprising how easy it can be to get caught up in all the action. It was a hell of a year in Marauder sports and the future seems to be getting even brighter. Much like March Madness, it will be worth being a part of.

Scott Hastie

 

Silhouette Staff

 

 

 

It’s over. My passion for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has come to an abrupt end after years of my being a huge fan.

 

I watched nearly every game of the tournament, followed the conference championships closely to try and pick the perfect team to make the run to the national championship game.

 

Selection Sunday was the best day of March, with weeks of scepticism about bubble teams and number one seeds finally coming to fruition.

 

But this year, March Madness does not feel the same and I could not bring myself to watch games past the second round. If it were not for the bracket challenge I had entered, I would have no idea which teams were playing at this point.

 

I would only hear about incredible performances through what I saw on Twitter, not because I had watched the player.

 

But what happened? Why is my love affair with the Madness over? I honestly can’t put a finger on one single issue that caused the change of heart, but I’m able to name a few that contributed to my March Madness break up.

 

Maybe the game is just not exciting as it once was. The shot clock in NCAA men’s basketball is 35 seconds and that’s frankly too long. The ball is passed around like a hot potato, with coaches trying to run the same play for their best player over and over until there are single digits on the clock.

 

What the viewer gets is bad shot attempts, resulting in low scoring games, and a poor quality product. The buzzer beating shot at the end doesn’t make up for the other 39 minutes of boring basketball either.

 

March Madness also focuses too heavily on the losers and not the winners, and that makes the tournament about failure rather than success. One of the most memorable moments in tournament history was the end of the Fab Five era, with Chris Webber calling for a timeout, drawing a technical foul and eventually losing the game.

 

But who did they lose to? It’s a good question and taking it a step further, how many NCAA championship finalists can you name from the past five years? I struggled to even name last year’s finalists, let alone eight other teams.

 

Personally, I enjoy seeing a team win a championship and secure their place in history as the best team of that given calendar year. But in March Madness, are they really securing a place? Will the champions even be remembered?

 

One of the most overrated aspects of the tournament is picking brackets. Every year, people put in an incredible amount of time to find the best teams and the best upset candidates. In reality, most of us have not paid any attention to college basketball all season and it’s impossible to learn about 64 teams in the time between Selection Sunday and the beginning of the tournament.

 

Besides, we all have that friend who can barely name any premier basketball schools, and who will get lucky and beat us in the bracket challenge anyways. So why waste all the effort and money?

 

The biggest issue that was on my mind before this year’s tournament even began was the issue of player compensation. Paying college athletes is not an issue that just affects basketball but every single sport in the NCAA. The March Madness tournament generated $771 million dollars from its TV contract in 2011, and the players who created the product received exactly zero dollars for it (at least legitimately).

 

While most of the players are receiving scholarships from their universities, they are not free to get a part-time job to pay for necessities like new clothing and gas in their cars so they can get to practice. Yes, they are receiving a free education but they are generating millions of dollars and receiving none of it, being promised money later on in life when they start their careers.

 

Would you spend thousands of hours, working hard, travelling across the country, and generating astronomical revenue figures, for money that you are not even guaranteed to receive? I know I wouldn’t.

 

The NCAA exploits young men and women and buying into the March Madness allows the organization to continue to get away with this.

 

Maybe once some of these issues become resolved I’ll fall back in love with the Madness, but it’s hard to tell. People are always going to love picking brackets and mocking teams like Duke when they lose. The NCAA is going to fight to the death to keep their gravy train going and as long as TV revenue figures continue to grow, we will not see any major rule changes like the one needed for the shot clock.

 

You guys can have your March Madness tournament, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it. I’ll be over here with the NBA, watching meaningless games and not missing out on a thing.

 


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