Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Those Big Brains at ESPN

I get most of my sports news on TV and online at ESPN, which is at best a mixed blessing.  These guys have so much time to fill and you have to give them their props--though they spend endless hours bloviating, they do seem to work at the details--they seem to know every player in every sport over the age of eight. 

They are obsessed.  March Madness is made for them. But in the end they're like the rest of the cable pack--they're baying wolves.   I happened to be watching when the last four of the 64 teams to be included in the NCAA March Madness college men's basketball tournament were announced.  These guys were apoplectic about several of the choices, made by some NCAA board I don't understand, and don't have long enough to live to care about.  But they were offended by some of the choices--notably a school called VCU---which I think is Virginia Commonwealth University.  They couldn't understand how this team could be picked.

What was fascinating about this was that they were virtually unanimous, all those experts.  At a certain point they seemed to be feeding on each other, each guy getting angrier by the second.  Some questioned the integrity of the process, intimating that prejudice was involved, hinting perhaps that money changed hands.  They were especially offended that not enough basketball experts were involved in the decision.  You know, experts like...them.

So they were angry and offended that VCU even got into the tournament.  They didn't deserve to be among the 64, and it was terrible what this choice meant for the boys who really deserved to be there.

Now those 64 teams are down to four.  Gone are the top teams, the #1 seeds and the usual favorites: Ohio, Kansas, Pitt, Duke, North Carolina, Florida.  So who is left?  VCU.  They've beat a team from just about every conference, and in most cases, beat them handily.  VCU, who the experts at ESPN said didn't even belong in the first 64, is in the Final Four.

Now Kentucky is the only big school left that's a media favorite--so naturally the ESPNers now favor Kentucky to win it all.  It's VCU and another small school, Butler, a team that shocked everybody at ESPN last year.  And UConn.  Now you don't have to be an ESPN expert to expect the women's finals to be UConn vs. Stanford, with UConn winning by six points--although maybe not this time. If Stanford brings its A game, they could pull the upset.  But nobody picked the men's Connecticut team for the Final Four, and personally I think they have a good chance to win it all.

But who am I.  I'm not an expert like those guys at ESPN.