March Madness is here.
Tom Brady is in the news again.
What a surprise!
Oh, March Madness is about the NCAA Basketball Championship. That’s right. I almost forgot.
For a second I thought it was about the daily doings of the Greatest of All-Time.
I once wrote that I would never use the term GOAT.
But I’m breaking that rule.
Is the GOAT in? Or is the GOAT out?
What is the GOAT thinking? How is the GOAT leaning?
Now we know.
The GOAT is coming back.
His 23rd season. And returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The team is elated. Brady is elated. His family is elated.
The world is elated.
This may be looked upon as heresy, but frankly, I’ve had it up to here with what #12 is thinking and deciding.
It’s actually a good decision. He’s not ready to retire.
He thinks he can win another Super Bowl. Go for it.
He wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t think he could get another ring.
He probably saw the Super Bowl and figured the Rams were good but not great. He probably saw that Matthew Stafford was good but not great.
So, why not give it another shot.
He can always step away after next season.
I do know this. The NFC is not a powerhouse conference.
But the AFC is. They have all the good young quarterbacks in the league.
Can the Bucs be the best in the NFC? Possibly.
Can the Bucs be better than the the likes of the Chiefs, Bills, Bengals etc? Probably not.
I wish him well.
Considering his age, (45), durability, all the championships and records, Brady is probably the most unique player in NFL history.
But I’m weary of the Tom Brady drama.
Now, for the real March Madness.
There is nothing like it.
Upsets, buzzer-beaters, the great stories of unlikely heroes, it’s all wrapped up in the tournament.
And it delivers.
The number one reason is because it’s one-and-done.
No second chances.
Those who follow the game closely, and those who don’t fill out their brackets and hope.
But the bracket-beaters lurk.
We don’t know when they’ll strike.
But we know they are there.
You won’t get any inside info here. Why?
There is no inside info.
I think the tournament usually takes on the pattern of surprises big and small, and unlikely teams advancing farther than expected.
ZAGS seeded #1!
Somehow the top seeded teams make it to the Final Four with maybe one exception.
That one exception becomes a Cinderella.
Thus, the perennial drama that never fails.
By now you know how I feel about momentum in sports.
Every game brings on a new experience.
Somehow, though, when it comes to March Madness, teams get on a run and wind up cutting down the nets.
Often, a legitimate title contender will play poorly and eke out a game they should have dominated.
Lots of people then jump off the bandwagon.
If a strong entry wins by not playing their best game, beware.
I think it indicates that team is on a roll. Watch for that.
Covering the NCAA Basketball Tournament was always a special time for me.
I broadcast 12 Regional Finals, and one Final Four for CBS.
The Final Four was one of the special ones.
In 1985, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY, Villanova shocked Georgetown in the championship game.
The big upset in ’85
In the midst of Providence celebration ‘87
There was no way the Hoyas under John Thompson, and led by Patrick Ewing would lose. No way.
But Villanova found a way. It was a stunner that remains legendary.
It was the last game before the shot-clock went into effect.
And it was a factor in the result.
Oddly enough, I was the pre and post game host, and Brent Musburger handled the play-by-play.
The role of calling games was routine for Brent, who did years of play-by-play.
But hosting an event was rare for me.
My studio was in the Rupp Arena lower stands.
I welcomed the audience, set up the game, interviewed several coaches at halftime, and closed out the broadcast.
When Brent threw it to me after the final buzzer, the first thing I said was, “…and that’s why they play the game”.
It was perhaps the greatest upset in NCAA championship game history, (with Texas Western’s triumph over Kentucky in 1966, and N.C. State’s win over Houston in ‘83 right behind).
When people ask me why I do what I do, I have a quick reply, Villanova 66 Georgetown 64.
The real fun of covering March Madness also involves the toughest day of any assignment you can ever have.
There are four early games on Thursday and Friday of the first week.
On the day before those games, eight teams practice for one-hour, followed by a news conference by each team’s head coach.
Having learned of your assignment on the Sunday when the pairings are announced, you delve into learning about the eight teams. Many, if not most are unknown to you.
Traveling day proceeds the day of practice.
From noon till 9:00pm you watch and listen.
A long day of quick study.
Then come the games the next day.
Four of them.
Two starting at noon, then, after a short break, two more at night.
Talk about concentration and stamina, nothing in our business is more challenging.
The day after the four games, comes a practice day for the four survivors and the coaches’ comments.
Then, a doubleheader to broadcast on the following day.
So, you’re on the air to announce six games in three days, along with the prep days before and in between.
It’s a test, for sure. But there’s not a soul who broadcasts games, who doesn’t relish that challenge.
March Madness is, indeed, special for the schools, the players, the coaches, the fans, and those who are lucky enough to work the tournament as broadcasters.
Let’s enjoy the games!