As I’ve watched the recent fiasco in Indiana play out over the past few days, I couldn’t help but think of the old Chinese proverb; “If you have to do something incredibly stupid, it is best not to do it when everyone is watching”. Several States have passed similar, clumsily written laws whose sole intent is to win the votes of religious conservatives, but nobody paid any attention because they didn’t do it while their State was hosting one of the most watched sporting events in the country.
Indiana had the entire year to pass this law, yet they waited until army of journalists descended on Indianapolis to cover the NCAA Final Four and the only time of the year when anyone pays any attention to anything that happens in Indiana. A few weeks later and they could have banned blasphemy and nobody would have noticed.
Hasn’t anyone told the governor that most media types tend to be socially liberal? Did he think that all these journalists who are expected to crank out an article a day for their employers in exchange for their free hotel, airfare, and admission, would somehow ignore that new law? Governor Mike Pence is learning that journalists with deadlines and no job security can be a dangerous things.
Until this week, most people thought of Indiana as a quiet place filled with people really good at basketball and stealing car manufacturing facilities from Michigan. Now they are known as a bunch of homophobic hicks terrified at the prospect of one day being forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The governor was apparently still considering a run for President, but by signing that bill into law he instantly transformed himself into a less famous Rick Santorum. Good luck with that Mike.
In terms of sports, March is my least favourite time of the year. Football is over, baseball hasn’t started yet, and the biggest stories in both the NBA and NHL are which mediocre teams will secure a final playoff spot and which awful teams will give themselves the best chance at winning the draft lottery. March is perhaps the only month of the year when there isn’t a single meaningful game played in any of the major professional North American sports leagues.
Since there are no actual pro games that matter in the month, the first two weeks of the month are dominated by frenzied NFL and free agent speculation. Every year the sports media waste endless hours covering a big college name who promptly fades into obscurity once the actual season starts, and bad teams make huge free agent signings that will somehow manage to make their team worse before New England scoops them up for half the price a season or two later. Mind numbing as those first two weeks may be, they are an absolute pleasure compared to what awaits in the final half of the month – college basketball.
I would rather watch cricket than college basketball. All of the best college players are hardly even college players at all. They only spend a single year in college because the NBA forces them to be there. As soon as you start to learn who these people are they are out of college an on to the NBA. While we are on the subject, I suspect that most of these guys even truly in college for a single year. If you know you are going to declare for the draft in the spring, and you have been too focused on basketball in March to do any studying, why would you even bother trying to write an exam in April after your college career is over?
So many great players leaving after a single year has not only hurt the quality of the play, but perhaps more importantly, it has hurt the rivalries. There is a 30 for 30 documentary airing tonight that is quite literally titled “I Hate Christian Laettner”. Great college players these days are simply not there long enough to be either hated or loved.
What really bothers me about the NCAA tournament is that I cannot escape it. I don’t like cricket, but it doesn’t bother me because never see it on TV and never hear people talk about it. Once we get to the Ides of March my favourite sports shows are suddenly pre-empted for college basketball games, or even worse, people talking about college basketball. I have to stop listening to sports talk radio shows as they become 100% focused on college basketball for two straight weeks. Canadian sports talk radio offers very little relief as this time of the year the only topic of conversation is how terrible the Toronto Maple Leafs are. I actually enjoy that topic, but there is only so much of that you can listen to.