As the NCAA Tournament begins this week, millions will spend the rest of the month glued to their seats in their favorite watering hole, watching the games on the big screen and lamenting the “bracket-busting” losses of teams they’ve never before cared about in their lives and, until the tournament began, most likely had never heard of before in their lives.
For at least one day, a team like the LIU Brooklyan Blackbirds will become relevant someplace other than Brooklyn (truthfully, I have to question how relevant they really are even there) as people shirk their work duties to pore over one of the dozen brackets they think will help them win that all-important office pool.
The NCAA Tournament commands big bucks and the eyes of millions across the country. Most people — even the most casual of college basketball fans — can’t help but get caught up in the hysteria.
Let’s face it — March Madness appeals to the masses.
Given my profession as a professional sports writer, most folks seem to think my life revolves around sports and I spend all of my free time flipping from game to game on the tube, picking up valuable insight that will somehow give me some sort of advantage when it comes to filling out a bracket.
Here’s a dirty little secret: The only college basketball I’ve seen in the past six years is what has transpired in the waning minutes before my daughter and the Troy Pop Rocks jump rope team have taken to the court to perform on college campuses throughout the Midwest.
And I certainly don’t watch any college basketball on television.
Fear not, though, loyal college basketball fans. It’s not just your sport I’m ignoring. With the exception of college football (and high school football when it’s televised), I pretty much don’t watch any sports on television — and I certainly don’t spend any money to go and watch it in person.
Like I said, I am usually glued to the television for long stretches of time on Saturdays in the fall — when I’m not covering a high school event that day — but I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I watched a sporting event in its entirety on television.
I couldn’t tell you who the starting running back was for the Cincinnati Bengals last fall. If you asked me to name three players for the Cincinnati Reds, I could probably give you Joey Votto and that’s about it. How are the Cleveland Cavaliers doing this year? Not a clue. Who won Wimbledon last year? I don’t know … probably a Williams sister.
Most people I meet — who invariably want to talk about sports if they know what I do for a living — assume that because my job is writing about sports, I must watch it all the time at home. The opposite actually holds true — because my job is writing about sports, I have little to no desire to watch sports at home.
Let’s get one thing straight: I love watching and writing about high school athletes. It truly is my dream job and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. For example, I spent back-to-back 12-hour days last week watching the state wrestling tournament, writing volumes of copy about the state wrestling tournament and even taking pictures at the state wrestling tournament. Despite the long days, it never seemed much like work, because I was doing something about which I was truly passionate.
When I got home after two days of that, however, the last thing on Earth I wanted to do was watch more sports.
And really, it’s as simply as that. I could tell you just about anything you wanted to know about the teams and athletes in Miami County, because that’s my job and it’s one I take very seriously. I only have so much room in my life for sports, however, and I want to make sure every minute I have to devote to sports is focused squarely on them.
I figure it’s probably like a chef who makes meals for hundreds of people all day long — then comes home and orders a pizza for dinner. I know when my mom was still teaching, she would frequently come home and say, “I’ve dealt with kids all day — so don’t start with me, David.”
So yeah, while other people are watching sports on television, I’m probably watching “King of the Hill” reruns on the Cartoon Network. When someone asks me a question about “the hot stove league,” I start thinking about the latest episode of “Chopped” I saw on the Food Network.
Once I leave the office — after I’ve given everything I have to Miami County’s athletes — I’m done with sports for the day. I just want to spend time with my wife and children, none of whom are sports fans.
But hey, you can go ahead and ask me for advice on filling out your NCAA bracket — and then I strongly suggest you do the opposite.
Reach David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong