So it is that time again.
It’s March. The season to recognize that college basketball is a Spokane area obsession and ask ourselves why.
To faithfully conduct this inquiry, it helps to frame the issue in terms of pro/con arguments. So let’s get started.
Does basketball merit all this attention?
Pro: Thanks to GU, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is Spokane’s annual invitation to stride onto the national stage and spend a few moments (or more) in the spotlight. For a time, we’re not just flyover country. We’re not some who-cares jerkwater town whose name braying analysts back in the CBS studio can’t always pronounce. We are the home of the Zags.
Con: Bread and circuses.
Pro: A good game, a really good game can be nothing short of thrilling.
Con: A blowout or protracted foul-fest can be unwatchable.
Pro: If you don’t take yourself too seriously, getting in on the office pool can be fun.
Con: A case could be made that big-time basketball is a weird sport played mostly by outsized athletes able to excel at the highest levels in part because of the genetic hand dealt them. Baseball, hockey, soccer – you name it – place no such premium on sheer physical size.
Pro: Come Selection Sunday, a few people in the Spokane area will find out that GU is paired up against their alma mater’s team. It usually makes for some good-natured ribbing.
Con: Off-putting sports fan behavior. (There is not room here for a comprehensive list.)
Pro: Mark Few never embarrasses his university or his city.
Con: Resentments can arise in certain workplaces when it becomes all too apparent that at least some colleagues intend to spend all day watching the games on TV.
Pro: A case could be made that the women’s tournament (Sweet Sixteen regional here in Spokane) features all the good things about the men’s tournament without some of the bombast, ego trips and other excesses.
Con: Zealots who say “Ya gotta love it!” (No, you don’t gotta.)
Pro: The NCAA tournament is a much-needed national geography lesson.
Con: People in Spokane who say “Who ever heard of Davidson?” (They’ve never heard of you either.)
Pro: It can all be a welcome distraction from the news.
Con: No matter how hard the NCAA beats the drum about the sacred concept of the “student athlete,” we all know that, at certain schools at least, the “athlete” part of that is a wee bit more important.
Pro: Comebacks and upsets.
Con: Being forced to calculate the amount of time you’ll never get back that you spent listening to a line of pickup trucks or brand of beer be described as an “official sponsor” of the hyperventilating proceedings.
Pro: Some of those kids (the players) are so astoundingly talented and able to perform under such mindblowing pressure that it is truly a sight to behold.
Con: TV announcer-speak. (I got’cher “3-ball” right here.)
Pro: It gives people something different to talk about in elevators when the weather has been exactly the same for five straight days.
Con: “Big Dance” and countless other cliches.
Pro: The tournaments feature some of the best smiles in American life.
Con: Not every self-appointed expert offering tournament analysis makes sure in advance that the listener is actually interested.
Pro: National TV coverage of the women’s games played in Spokane is apt to feature scene-setter shots of the downtown waterfalls. Who ever gets tired of seeing that?
Con: People passing off John Blanchette’s and Jim Meehan’s insights as their own. (Actually you’re allowed to do that if you buy a paper.)
Pro: The blessed mute button.
Con: Armchair refs who don’t actually understand the rules.
Pro: Community. Cheering together – even in thousands of different houses, apartments and bars – is a warmly bonding Spokane experience.
Con: Sometimes the yelling coming from the living room makes the pets worry that Grandpa is having a coronary.
Pro: Pride. When it’s near the end of the game and it’s certain your team is not going to win, sometimes the disappointed players and coaches conduct themselves with such dignity that it makes you want to get up out of your recliner and silently salute them for their class and for all the pleasure they have given you since last fall.
Pro: When you are doing a video phone-chat with your aunt back East and her excitement about the Zags makes you smile, even after the call is over.
Pro: When EWU’s performance in the Big Sky Conference tournament gives you hope that The Spokesman-Review will once again send the inimitable Walter brothers, Jess and Ralph, on the road with the high-flying Eagles.
Pro: When you realize not one of the announcers or studio pundits has said Spo-cain.
Pro: They do it all over again next year.