Remember college? The best 4 or 5 years of your life? Well, I know some guys where it was more like 8 years, but that’s a different story for a different day.
Looking back on our lives, many of us would point to that half-decade as the one we’d love to go back and do all over again!
With that said, it is what makes this time of year so great. Kids all across the country playing college basketball, the vast majority of seniors playing organized team sports for the final time. It’s that realization that creates both an excitement and a desperation to extend that life just a little longer.
Conference tournaments are where a kid can realize the dream of playing in the NCAA tournament. Just one more game on the big stage to go out in style is what every senior is thinking. And all of them are dreaming of not just getting there, but getting fitted with Cinderella’s slipper. One shining moment.
In these conference tournament games seniors are forced to reflect on a basketball life that may have began 15-20 years ago that may be coming to a close. They don’t want that end. The games in March reveal that intensity. When the game ends, it ends with agony or ecstasy. There is no in-between. Either it’s a dream realized or one vanquished.
That carries over into the big dance. Whether it’s Cinderella who fought so hard just to dance, or the bigger schools who carry plenty of seniors too who want March to last forever. They’d give anything for a Sweet 16. They’d do anything for a Final Four. Give ‘em some scissors and let them cut down a net. They want to win and advance as bad as they don’t want it to end! They want to put off mortality for another day, just keep living the dream.
Those two factors collide and make March Madness the best. College football, God love it, could never generate such hysteria across the board, effecting so many players and teams all over the country. Pro sports can only deliver it small doses. For most competing, there is always next year.
Only college basketball effects so many players in that special way where the desire to win is matched by the fear to fail. These days in March are fleeting. What happens within them goes by quickly, but will be remembered forever, for better, or for worse. That’s sports. The good. And the bad. All rolled together.