I read that this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament has been the most watched in nearly twenty years. I also read that this year’s tournament will garner nearly one billion dollars in advertising revenue, outpacing any other sporting event. Ever.
It might be April, but this event labelled March Madness is rolling along into the fourth month of the year quite nicely thank-you very much. Its already created the need to switch Cinderella’s mid-gear, dropping Florida Gulf Coast for Wichita State. Seen our Canadian players get dropped faster than an NBA player tricked into a Kardashian marriage. Not to mention the grotesque rekindling of vicious leg injury memories originally created by Lawrence Taylor on Joe Theisman.
And now. Now we are down to the Final Four. Two simple words that have become a lexiconic icon if there ever was to be one.
Recently USA Today ranked every one of the seventy-four Final Four held to determine the Division 1 basketball champ. Number one according to the survey? The 1979 Larry Bird-Magic Johnson head to head that also featured other members of their Indiana State and Michigan State teams.
I have been to two Final Fours. Put it on your bucket list. Hundreds of thousands of hoop lovers being hosted by a city starving for their tourism dollars. At every turn, every corner store, every coffee shop, every garbage can there is some sort of Final Four connection. Everyone is just happy to be there and if you are sporting any sort of logo, will unabashedly become your new best friend.
But the real magic of the Final Four is the one-hit wonder of its stars. Who can tell me who hit the fadeaway winner from the corner from 1987 or had the full court dash in 1995 or the lights out shooting in any year. For every Johnson or Jordan, there are countless Simons, Smarts, Edneys, Haywards that had their brief shining moment where they emerge from campus hero to national megastar and then soon to back down to NBA journeyman, grad student, European professional, or high school gym teacher.
That Last March into the shiniest of limelights must be most exhilarating and exasperating. This weekend marks the culmination of three weeks of undaldutered attention. Soon the fade away that made them famous, actually will fade away.
Oh there will be the annual replays and the obligatory highlight shows, but I wonder how it feels. To be the 20 year old who is sought by everyone, who will soon be a twenty year old memory.