Saturday, March 28, 2009

We're Pretty Sure It's Not a Tribute to the Late Howlin' Wolf

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has brought one of its institutional neuroses out in the open for all to see, providing "all" have flashlights handy.

Fans watching the NCAA basketball tournament regionals in Boston and other venues have noted the color scheme for the event, namely, the NCAA's fondness for that peculiarly somber shade of blue that sucks the light out of the building. The site of the South regional, the Memphis gym, which already has a blue color pattern since that's the school's color, looked on TV like a scene from a nature documentary on the Marianas Trench.

In order that blue not receive competition from any more cheerful light spectrum, the NCAA put its own court floor down at the Garden to remove all that pesky green the Celtics have on their floor. The Fabled Parquet (trademark pending) is only the most famous court on earth. But the NCAA's goal is to make everything it touches look like Cedar Rapids.

The dreary blue has been the tournament's color scheme for as long as I can remember-- behind the scenes. The considerable spaces where TV and the press work are covered with drapery in the shade, as are passageways, etc. There's carpeting in the blue, as well. Then the NCAA turns the lights down. Spending 12 hour days working in that environment is to walk a mile in the late Kurt Cobain's moccasins.

The tournament is perhaps our nation's jolliest large sports event, so drenching it
in a color any psychologist would call depressing never made sense to me. After a few tournaments, it started to bother me. But, since who cared about backstage, I never wrote about it.

Now, however, the NCAA has gone too far, and is subjecting paying customers and TV audiences to the same subtle bummer it visited on the press for so long. It's having the expected effect, too. There have been some quiet crowds at the games so far. It's tough to reach the operatic passions needed for basketball rooting when surrounded by a visual barbituate.

Why the NCAA is in such a down mood when staging its largest celebration is a mystery. But they shouldn't lay their bad trip on us. Call around and find an interior decorator, gang. Someone who can recommend a tasteful, cheerful off-white.


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