Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March Madness Infects The Blot

The 2009 Final Four in Detroit, MI logoLast weekend was the opening weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and it is far and away my favorite sports weekend of the year. I tried so hard to be productive this past weekend but I kept being beckoned to the television to watch college basketball. There is nothing better than watching the little guy take it to the big state school and show them that on a neutral court it truly is anyone’s game. While there weren’t as many Cinderella stories this year, it was amazing watching 14, 15 and even 16 seed teams push their “more talented,” higher recruited rivals to the brink.

The University of Illinois Illini logoIt reminded me of my first ever March Madness experience and one that submitted my eternal love for what is IMHO the greatest sporting event in the world. Picture it: Birmingham, Alabama - March 12, 1987, it was the first round of the NCAA tournament. My dad took a then 7 and a half year old lil' Blot to his very first session of NCAA Tournament games. The first game was between the University of Illinois Illini, a three seed, and a little known school named Austin Peay, the 14th seed.

Austin Peay Governors logoBack then I knew nothing of rankings, seedings or who was “supposed” to win. What I did know was the Austin Peay Governors, who were in the NCAA Tournament for only the third time in school history, had the best cheer ever, “Let’s Go Peay!” Let me just tell you, to a 7 year old “Let’s Go Peay” is probably the coolest thing you could be cheering over and over again at a basketball game. The stadium was going crazy for the underdogs from Clarksville, Tennessee and the Governors pulled off a huge upset.

After that my dad and I watched 6 seed Providence Friars, coached by the now legendary coach Rick Pitino and led by a then unknown (and current head coach of the Florida Gators) Billy Donovan, begin their march to the 1987 Final Four by defeating our hometown heroes the 11th seeded UAB Blazers. It was a fun time to be a 7 year old and it was an afternoon I won’t soon forget. Once I got older I made it a point to attend as many NCAA Tournament games as I could, which thankfully wasn’t too hard as there always seems to be games taking place in a city near where I live, either in Birmingham, Atlanta, or one of four cities in Texas.

The 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket
I’m currently running a pretty hot streak, having gone to games 10 of the last 13 years, including the 2002 Final Four. But no games are in store for The Blot this year as the tourney has for some reason skipped Texas completely. That’s ok though, because when you are in the thick of March Madness as we are right now, one game just isn’t good enough. You need to be watching bits and pieces of the two, three or four games going on in hopes of catching that last second upset and ultimately the tournament’s one shining moment.
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