I don’t know about the rest of you, but while I watch the NCAA championship every year, it’s usually with a sour taste in my mouth, because none of the teams in my bracket advanced that far, or if they did, I’m still out of it and have no shot at winning the pool.
Last night, though, was different, for a couple of reasons.
First, it was the first time my 3-year-old daughter actually sat still for an extended period of time and watched a sporting event. Mind you, I’m not complaining about her general state of hyperactivity – the one thing kids need less of in this part of the world is sitting still and watching tv – but it was enjoyable to see her attention span extend beyond 35 seconds.
For some reason, she took a shine to Ohio State (or as she calls them, “the red guys”). Maybe it was Greg Oden, maybe it was Ron Smith, or maybe it was the fact her dad was shouting PG obscenities whenever Florida scored. Regardless, for pretty much the entire second half she sat next to me on the couch and rooted for OSU.
From yelling at Joakim Noah (“I don’t like that ponytailed guy”) to inventing cheers (“Go red guys, go!” “Hey white guys, let the red guys win!”), she had a blast. She even explained to her grandfather that Noah isn’t a nice guy (“He’s always yelling, bapa. Yelling’s not nice, right? That’s why we don’t like that ponytailed guy.”)
That was part of it, for sure. Add in the fact I got to watch basketball for a solid 2 hours without her asking me to put on Dora was the cherry on top (sadly, though, she seemed to be riveted by those annoying car insurance ads featuring some cartooned woman trying to dunk over some sort of alien-type creature).
The other part was the talent on the court. I think that 15 years from now, we’ll all look back on this championship game as something special. While Oden was obviously the best player on the court, this wasn’t a case of a giant amongst midgets. Oden’s teammates (Conley, Smith, et al) are also talented, and it’s possible he won’t be the only guy on his team to play in the NBA. And, of course, it seems as though every guy Billy Donovan trotted out onto the court for Florida was NBA-ready.
It all means that 5, 6, 10 years from now, we could be watching an NBA all-star game featuring Oden, Noah, and Horford, and we’ll all look back at last night and remember they were all on the same court together, the way I remember seeing UNLV play at the Kingdome against Seton Hall.
For one night at least, I forgot all about the Sonics’ troubles, and remembered why I watch basketball in the first place: It’s a game that everyone can enjoy, regardless of whether they know nothing about it, or far, far too much.