By Mark Carpenter –
Basketball fans had to be loving last weekend. Well, maybe not if you are a Peebles fan, or a Cincinnati fan, or a Xavier fan, or an Ohio State fan, or a North Carolina fan, or an Arizona fan, or a Michigan State fan, or a fan of any other team that saw its season come to a stunning halt somewhere between Thursday and Sunday. What a wild weekend of basketball, and what an exciting weekend for the underdogs. One of the things that makes sports appealing is the ability to cheer for the underdog, and man was that on the table last weekend.
I missed it all, well most of it. I decided to take a much-needed vacation, albeit a short one, and turn my attention for a weekend to spring training baseball in Florida, where by the way there was no snow on the ground. While my family and I (minus one) followed the New York Mets around the east coast of the Sunshine State, the basketball world was being turned upside down, thrown in a blender, and tossed out.
I didn’t really miss it all, I couldn’t totally cut the cord for four days. On Thursday night after we arrived down south, you could have found me at dinner where I asked the waitress to please turn one of the 50 televisions around to the UK game for me. On Friday night, I could be found eating seafood at a place overlooking the water and with a beautiful sunset, with my phone tuned to Facebook to watch the Peebles game, though that one didn’t turn out like we all wanted it to. (Thank you Mr. Chad Walls for the broadcast.)
Saturday it was find the UK game again and here comes some true dedication. We were driving along the Coast doing some beach-hopping and I was able to watch the first half of the Kentucky game and then the battery on my phone died. Then we turned to my son’s phone, but it soon lost the signal, so Plan C saw my wife download the March Madness app and me proceed to walk along the beach watching the game on her phone and keeping them both updated on the score. Yep, we are all card-carrying members of the BBN in my house.
I managed to watch Virginia get destroyed in the hotel and while our flight home was delayed on Sunday night, I was able to root for Nevada while surrounded by Cincinnati fans who were also headed back, watching on a TV in the airport. With a flight delayed until after 10 o’clock, we caught the first half of the Xavier game and when we had to shut the phones off after boarding, the Muskies had a seemingly comfortable 11-point lead. When we landed in Cincinnati and I was able to check the final score, I announced to all those around us, “Xavier lost.”
There are those who think that all the upsets in the opening rounds are bad for the tournament. Not at all, just bad for those who threw their money away in any kind of bracket challenge. It’s great for the game and proves something that college football might want to take a look at-give the little guys a chance. Who even knew what a UMBC was before this weekend? Not only did many of the top seeds lose, but they got demolished. In a tournament setting, it just takes one bad game and it’s “pack your bags.”
So far though, Coach Cal and the Cats haven’t had that bad game, in fact they are playing their best basketball of the season. The Red Sea has parted for the Big Blue and they have a golden opportunity to make another Final Four appearance, but with the way this tourney has gone, nothing is a guarantee. I am amused though by those who want to throw out the argument that UK won’t have to play anybody in their bracket. Really? They beat the teams they were supposed to, perhaps Arizona, Tennessee and Cincinnati should have tried that method.
I said midway though the season that Villanova would win the title and I still think that will be the case, but again, you never know. There might be another George Mason sneak into the Final Four. Therein lies the allure of sports, it is almost always unpredictable.
Before I finish writing basketball stuff, let me say another congratulations to Coach Josh Arey and his Peebles Indians for taking us all on a wonderful ride. Those rides are few and far between in this area and proof of how athletics can bring a community together in a positive way and how a coach can run a program the way it should be run. My wife can vouch for how torn I was that I was going to have to miss that last game, but a spring training trip for my son seemed like a permissible alternative. I will always remember the very last picture that I took at a Peebles basketball game this season. Coach Arey was walking off the floor after the win over Coal Grove in the regional semis and I caught him with a smile and a thumbs up.
Simple as that, smile and a thumbs up.