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Vol. 53, No. 3 • March 2016 • .pdf version
March is magical when respect is mutual
By PAT FORDE / Yahoo Sports
Congratulations, everyone. We've almost made it to March.
This is the best time of year to be a college basketball writer, which is something I try to remind myself – usually out loud – on the first day of conference tournaments and again on the first day of the NCAA Tournament.
We are lucky. This is our job. Enjoy it. Have fun while working our butts off.
I will do my best to keep that in mind through every 10 p.m. tipoff at the end of a four-game day. Through every game-ending two minutes that last 15 minutes in real time. Through every late or lost shuttle from the hotel to the arena. Through every stilted news conference insistence on referring to "student-athletes." Through every confrontation with the Soda Police who insist that my Diet Coke is poured in an NCAA-approved cup before getting to the court.
Dealing with the logistical headaches of covering the tournaments should not detract from actually covering the tournaments.
For the most part, we are about to see the best the sport has to offer. The highest level of effort and intensity and passion. The most drama with the highest stakes. The greatest sense of urgency.
For the great majority of the players and coaches we're covering, this is the highlight of their basketball lives. Some will make it professionally, but for most, this is the apex and the culmination of dreams. I believe we should feel and appreciate what they're experiencing – and I think most of us do.
The best media-player interaction I saw in the 2015 NCAA tournament was also one of the saddest: SMU's Yanick Moreira was called for a controversial goaltend that decided the Mustangs' game against UCLA in the opening round in Louisville. He was devastated, as were all the Mustangs.
But he sat in the SMU locker room and answered every question – showing a great deal more accountability and class in defeat than millionaire Cam Newton did after the Super Bowl. The reporters talking to him were respectful with our questions, and he poured out a lot of emotion at a very difficult time. It was his last college game.
Afterward, several of us – veterans who have been around the win-or-go-home block and the losing locker rooms that accompany it – thanked him for his time and his gracious manner. It seemed like the right thing to do.
Those are the stories we're about to discover and write. You never know when the big moment is going to happen in the Big Dance, which is part of its charm and allure. You never know when something amazing is going to happen right in front of you. So I'm going to do my best to be ready for it.
As much as we should celebrate and appreciate the chance to cover March, that doesn't mean we have to shill for the sport. Most of us love college basketball and want to see the game grow – or, at the very least, hold onto its spot in a sporting landscape increasingly overtaken by King Football. But we shouldn't be blind apologists for it, either.
If the games are bad, it's OK to say so. If the officiating stinks, make note of it. (Though I also think the scapegoating of officials has gone too far, crossing over at times from fair comment and criticism into excuse-making for the losing teams.) If coaches or players act like jerks, call them on it.
We're here to report the truth, not a sanitized version of it.
It can be easy to feel a bit beaten down and road-weary at this point. We've all written a gazillion stories, and many of us also have filed a gazillion videos and blog updates, too. There are more content demands than ever on reporters.
But we've almost made it through the dog days of February, and the payoff is in sight. (Well, unless you cover Louisville or SMU. To those folks, I'm sorry.) This is our One Shining Moment, too.
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