Notes on the Greatest Show on Earth
by Michael Ermitage
You always want your first column to be like a firm handshake. Not too strong, not too sweaty but certainly strong enough to leave a lasting impression. So, it is with this column that I introduce myself as the newest resident of Hoopville. Born and raised in Chicago, I am a Cubs, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks fan (in that order). But pro sports are for homers and bettors. College basketball is a personal passion. With all respect to Barnum and Bailey – it is “The Greatest Show on Earth.” On the other hand, college football, in its current state, is ridiculous. And until a true playoff system emerges, I refuse to attend a Bowl game.
Duke and Disney are in bed
All hail Duke. C’mon, bust out your prayer pad, face towards Durham, North Carolina and pay homage to the kings of college basketball. Or at least this is what Disney-owned ESPN would like you to do. The media blitz of the defending champions is deafening. It makes O.J. coverage look like Page 3 news. In the span of one week this season, ESPN showed Duke versus such powerhouses as San Diego State and Davidson. The latter of which was shown on ESPN2 on the same day that the Big Ten kicked off its conference season. What’s next – Mickey Mouse wearing a Carlos Boozer jersey?
Having spent four years in the state of Indiana, I can say without a doubt that the basketball mecca of the world is in the Hoosier heartland. Some smaller newspapers have been quietly debating the issue of North Carolina versus Indiana in a great hoops debate. Sure, North Carolina has brought us some great home-grown players and consistently produces excellent collegiate teams. But not with the same breadth as Indiana.
Proof: Indiana, Ball State, Butler, Purdue, Notre Dame and Valparaiso all reside in the state and are dominant within their conferences nearly every season. And I have not even begun to talk about high school basketball where Indiana arenas regularly hold as many as 5,000 people.
Come one, come all
If you have never been to an NCAA Tournament game, I highly suggest you attend one, particularly in the first two rounds. Go to a site other than in your home town and stay the weekend. Visit the local bars and make some friends. Surely, raucous bar arguments will follow, as passions run deep. But it’ll add a little spice to games you never thought you’d care about. I have been a College of Charleston fan since Memphis ’97 when the Cougars should have beaten eventual-champ Arizona and played a fantastic brand of basketball. Also, they came complete with the rowdiest school contingent I have ever latched onto.
And then . . .
I had a college professor that once told me that bits columns were for amateurs. I agree. This will be the last one (unless, of course, I am completely clueless for an idea again).
Next week’s upsets
Indiana over Iowa, Pepperdine over Gonzaga, Notre Dame over Kentucky