Sunday, March 29, 2009

College Sports Consumer Reports

As of this posting, 10 of the 15 games of the NCAA hockey tournament have been played this weeked. So have 10 of the last 15 games of the NCAA basketball tournament.

In the multi-kazillion buck basketball tourney, which is universally and correctly considered one of the nation's leading sports events, one of the top-seeded teams lost, when Pitt was defeated by Villanova in a superlative thriller that exhibited the best the sport has to offer. Three of the other nine games, Pitt-Xavier, UConn-Missouri, and Kansas-Michigan State, were pretty good games that would not have left a spectator feeling out of pocket, nor caused the TV viewer to click the remote except during commercials. I can't remember the other games.

In the hockey tournament, which is a cult event even in those regions of the country where ice and snow are winter companions, the following events have taken place. Three of the number one seeds bit the dust in the round of 16, including one reasonably historic upset when Bemidji State beat Notre Dame, surely the first time that phrase has appeared in U.S. history. Cornell beat Northeastern in a third period comeback topped by a game-winning goal with less than 20 seconds to play. Vermont beat Air Force in double-overtime to advance to the Frozen Four.

And those were the fifth, fourth, and third-most astonishing events of the tourney! New Hampshire scored a tying goal against North Dakota with a tenth of a second on the clock, then won in overtime, and that isn't even first! Minnesota-Duluth's win over Princeton takes that honor. UMD scored TWO goals in the last thirty seconds of regulation, again including one with less than a second to go to force the overtime where it scored the winning goal.

I know basketball is a national game and hockey a regional one. I know no one except the Boston Herald sports department is demented enough to conduct office pool gambling brackets on a sport as variable as college hockey. But look at those summaries!! If the purpose of watching sports is the form of entertainment the Greeks called catharsis, and we proles call excitement, there's no comparison. The hockey tourney is putting on an historic show, the basketball tournament has been, well, a marketing opportunity for General Motors (what will happen to those Pontiac scholarships when GM discontinues Pontiac?).

The divine hand which looks over the American sports fan gave us the TV remote. Let's be smart shoppers and use it a little. Check your local listings,


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