Reviewing March Madness


While we wait for the weather to warm up for spring sports, let’s review the NCAA basketball tournament, or “March Madness”, as they call it, although the IHSA claims to be original coiner of the term March Madness.

Anyway, it is madness with all the upsets and tantalizing close finishes. The game that received the highest TV ratings was unheralded Oakland (not California) beating perennial power Kentucky.

What makes this tournament fun is watching all the underdogs make a name for themselves. Before Oakland beat Kentucky, nobody outside of Rochester, Michigan (where the school is located) knew who they were. They drew us in again with an overtime loss in the second round to NC State.

Unknowns, such as Oakland three-point specialist Jake Gohlke, who proclaimed to the viewing audience after the Kentucky win, “We are not Cinderellas”, suddenly become household names. Gohlke will be forgotten by next season when the tournament rolls around, but for one weekend, he was in the limelight as much as Caitlin Clark of Iowa.

Great to see the women’s version of March Madness continue to make a meteoric rise in popularity, with Clark being the face of all of college basketball. No one on the men’s side comes close to her in name recognition of fanfare.

Not only that, but some consider her a bigger star than anyone in the NBA. If you doubt that, check out the environment in any the arenas, home and away, she had played in. Allegedly, there is a female pop star that carries the same cache, but I’ll take Caitlin.

I do have a couple of complaints about the tournament, especially on the mens side. It is mind-numbing enduring all the replay checks the officials do in the final couple minutes of a game, be it possessions, flagrant fouls or clock time.

If there is such a need for this, why isn’t it being done the full 40 minutes? Then again, games would take forever to finish, more so with all the TV timeouts.

While channel-surfing four games that were on simultaneously, each one had a commercial rolling when I clicked there. The product was much more enjoyable to view in the old days before money dictated everything.

While watching a few games (because I’m too cheap to pay for cable) at my neighbor Mark Wolber’s house, he said players should be given a technical for falling on the court and acting like they are hurt. I whole-heartedly agree. Stop acting like crybabies. Get up and be a man.

Of course, that sentiment could be the curmudgeon in both of us.

For those one to see some real hardcore athletes, the NCAA wrestling finals were also on this past weekend. Those guys are absolutely tough-as-nails when it comes to competing.

Unfortunately, wrestling has always played second fiddle to basketball. It’s gotten so bad, that the sport has had to petition to continue as an Olympic sport, while break dancing makes its debut at the Paris Games this summer.

The last Olympics I attended as a spectator was Montreal in 1976.Before I considered going to Paris, but travel has become such a hassle nowadays, beside the exorbitant costs for airfare to Europe and lodging there.

Life was easier 48 years ago, when my friend Doyle Lang and I piled into his late model Ford LTD and drove to Montreal, camping every place we went.

A lasting memory for me was being in the stadium for the decathlon and seeing Bruce Jenner claim a gold medal and set a world record in the process. With his rugged build, good looks and extreme athletic prowess, he was the picture of manliness.

There was another side to humanity that intrigued me. Our seats were close to the shot put ring and the women’s finals were going on. It was eastern European females dominating the event and from my close-up vantage point, they all looked like men, with facial hair and muscular torsos.

This was before the crack down on steroid usage and drug enhancement. The poor American girls didn’t have a chance, but they will probably end up living longer because their bodies weren’t subject to such abuse.

At the shot put ring in Montreal, it was somewhat shocking to see women having characteristics of a male, but nowhere near the surprise I felt decades later when Jenner changed his gender, going from Bruce to Caitlyn.

Andy Colbert is a longtime Ogle County resident with years of experience covering sports and more for multiple area publications.