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Friday, October 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 52.0° F  Fog/Mist
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An ode to college basketball
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
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"I have warned many times about the guaranteed dangers of betting your heart instead of your head -- big darkness, soon come -- but every once in a while you get a fair chance to have it both ways, and the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament is one of them."

-- Hunter S. Thompson

Oh, college basketball.

How I love thee. I love thee even before March when everyone loves thee. I mean I really love thee. I would make out with thee if I could. I'm talking tongues.

I even love thee in May! When thou art no more even happening! I think of thee all the time. Not of football, not for a moment. Football is your plodding, mouth-breathing, six-seconds-at-a-time, head-concussing, knuckle-dragging cousin.

I love THEE!

I love thy grace. I love thy swarm-the-ball, no-breathing-space, race-up-the-court-in-your-face-without-a-trace pace. You are Baryshnikov. You are Dave Brubeck. You are Isaac Hayes. You are the Wallendas.

You are a Road Runner cartoon is what you are.

You are 40 games per year. Not 10 games like moron, pig-skin-headed football, which we shall not mention again. Ever.

College basketball! You are a circus with clown sounds. Horns and buzzers that electroshock us. Your commotion makes our commotion rise and swell. Your players wake up in the morning with the roar of last night's auditorium in their ears. They hear tomorrow night's roar as they sit in class. How can they even sit?

Those players! We blink and BAM! We miss a play. We blink and the game's over! I love your compression, college basketball. You are 40 minutes. Forty clean minutes. Even with your timeouts we return to the boring, real world in less than two hours.

Your snobby brother, baseball? He takes all day. He needs to get a job. He walks around in slow motion. He preens and poses in his long trousers. He drowns you in his stats and his stuffy history. He won't shut up. While he waits for something to happen, he tells you to notice his style, his nuance. He belongs in a Wes Anderson movie. Buy him an ascot.

College basketball, you don't need an ascot, do you? You stink! You really do! Your smells are trapped on buses and in locker rooms. They produce fungi! Your indoor gyms are redolent with the scent of players and fans alike: cologne, Juicy Fruit, popcorn and B.O. all mashed together. You are one with your fans. So close that your players fall into the fans' arms! You don't need three square blocks to do your thing, do you?

No! You need a length of 94 feet, 50 feet across. These dimensions remind us that even we can shoot a ball through the hoop. We've seen fat guys sink half-court shots at halftime!

But the real players? Holy things. That's why if you touch one, it's a foul!

Who plays you? Only people with the most awesome names in the world, that's who! Other sports have players with names like CEOs. Not you! Pistol Pete Maravich and Earl the Pearl Monroe were college players. So were Clyde the Glide Drexler, Sir Charles Barkley...Vander Blue...Scooter McCray.... Still. You are so generous that even guys with the most boring names in the world are ballers! Michael Jordan! Larry Bird!

And what about college names? Thanks for teaching us those, too. How else would we know Austin Peay? Or Seton Hall? Or Chaminade, a school that sounds like a wedding punch? We're allowed to cheer for those teams if we want to. The tournament is a long and winding road, and we look for Cinderella at every rest stop. I've never been to Gonzaga University but I wish its team well! Go, Gonzaga!

So here we go! The tournament is the crossroad. That's where the Devil sits. (Not the Blue Devils!) And not the conference tournaments! They are distractions. They are blasphemous!

Conference tournaments are fake orgasms. They are meaningless sex. Moaning and ass-grabbing and heavy breathing and sweating. For nothing.

Check that. Conference tournaments are for somebody: The networks!

Oh, college basketball, what would March be without you? A frozen mud hole, that's what! You direct our gaze to the TV screen when without you we'd sit alone at the window and stare at the dour landscape. Have we thanked you for that? We can pretend it's spring and never have to leave the house.

College basketball! You win! We now feast at your altar, brackets in hand, reveling in our chance to play God.

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