Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Madness Has Ended - Or Has It?

Last night the Prince of Darkness and his minions smashed the forces of All That Is Good and Holy and took the national championship for NCAA Men's Division I Basketball. There was a score, but the score was not really indicative of how much The Prince's (John Calipari) forces dominated the boys from Kansas.  This was as thorough a destruction as I have seen of one team in a championship game and despite a late attempt by Kansas to make things look respectable, the game was really never in doubt.

This was the predicted outcome. The gifted recruiter Coach Cal would finally get his national championship ring and his players would disperse to the winds to prepare for the NBA draft, possibly never having seen a UK classroom this semester. Bill Self's KU squad, already a loser to Kentucky back in November didn't have the firepower then and it didn't last night. Kentucky may not either next year, as they are set to lose freshmen superstars Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for certain and probably also Marquis Teague.

But Kentucky will reload with new talent, the recruiting of top prospects fueled by Coach Cal's first ring and the likelihood that the NCAA is still a few years away from catching up to him at Kentucky.  I don't really have a problem with the players to spend a year 'at school' and then head to the NBA draft.  For me, an educated, suburban, white guy to tell these kids who generally have so little academic preparation for college that they need a college degree to be successful while the NBA beckons with guaranteed millions is just stupid.

However, I do think that this is just another example of how college sports are nothing like what we pretend them to be. There is very little honorable or noble about universities making millions off the labor of athletes who will never graduate. Similarly, the athletes participating in this sham are little more than mercenaries, serving their term of enlistment for the bonus at the end of the line.

And it's not going to change. The NCAA tournament TV contract is an $11 BILLION deal. Anyone who has been to a Final Four has seen the obscene amount of money that gets thrown around in bars, restaurants and clubs wherever the games land each year. Then there is the merchandise.  People who can't find Kentucky on a map are bedecked in school color, wearing foam fingers and painting their faces. It's a virtual orgy of consumerism around a few games played by kids, who for the most part are not even able to drink yet.

It's a giant mess and it isn't going to get better.  I've always been a huge fan of March Madness, but this year may have been the beginning of the end for my enjoyment. The Madness isn't in Lehigh beating Duke (ouch that hurt) or in Butler making it all the way to the final game. It's in the masses believing that this is really amateur athletics and that the experience is somehow important to what colleges and universities are supposed to be about - namely education.


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