Writing and Basketball


I don’t follow college basketball during the regular season. I’m not a huge basketball fan. I can’t name many players, or recite facts of the top of my head. My dad calls weekly and gives me an update about recent games he has seen. I don’t claim to be an expert. I will, however, tune in when our beloved Wolverines take the court, and maybe even when my hometown favorites—Temple, Nova, and La Salle suit up. But I hardly follow religiously.

However, when March roles around, I invest myself in the Big Dance. I wait eagerly for Selection Sunday. I start paying attention. I read up on teams. I spend time carefully crafting my bracket, think long and hard about which pools to enter, and form fierce loyalties with teams that I’ve never even seen play once.

I used to think that I loved the tournament  because I love the competition. I played sports through high school. I cared more than I should have about my private-school-league playoff games. I still get a little too invested in my Intramural teams at Michigan. I just figured this is why I loved March Madness.

But last night, as I watched Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown in round one, I realized that the reason I love March Madness is for the same reason that I love writing. It’s about the story.  For the seventh time since the tournament began, a number fifteen seed upset a number two seed. And it wasn’t just any number two seed, it was Georgetown, a school that has been branded a basketball powerhouse, and has relied much on that reputation (despite the fact they haven’t made it out of round one in three years).

For most March Madness followers (brackets aside), it was nice to see Georgetown lose. And then there is Florida Gulf Coast, a team you might not have even heard of until yesterday. They university was founded in 1997. They only built their basketball stadium seven years ago. This is there first trip to the tournament. With their win yesterday, they because a perfect Cinderella team. David beat Goliath. Basketball fans can’t help but root for the Eagles—even if it screws over their bracket. That’s what I love about the NCAA tournament. Every year, there is team like Florida Gulf Coast that reminds me of all the important elements of a good story—pathos, suspense, surprise, and excitement. Any other March Madness followers out there?

3 thoughts to “Writing and Basketball”

  1. Matilda, I totally understand what you mean. Sometimes more than the actual game, I enjoy the drama and suspense around it. It’s like watching a movie. Sometimes, I’ll start yelling at the screen and almost imagining that I’m sharing the screen with the character and then I’ll realize, that’s not true. But, I’ve seen people yell at their TV screens in the same way when they’re watching sports. I think American sports (especially on television) is such a dramatic and enthralling adventure. There is definitely a different between watching a game on tv versus listening to it on a radio.

  2. Matilda and Veena-

    I’ve always felt the same way about sports but have never been able to word it as well you did. The sports industry is one of the largest in the country and I think the reasons you gave are exactly why; following sports is like watching a story unfold before your very eyes, except that the sports world is one totally devoid of clichés. I grew up in Milwaukee, which is a relatively small sports market, and watching the Brewers make the playoffs for the first time in 25 years was without a doubt the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed. Looking back on it, it really does seem too much like generic story–filled with drama, doubts, dynamic characters, surprises, and an impossibly perfect climax–to be true, and these aspects are what makes certain sporting events so powerful.

    Events like the Brewers’ playoff run (or FGCU’s victory) have all the makings of a perfect story yet they occur in real time with absolutely no certainty of outcome. This ability of an entire community to get swept up in the action together, coupled with the uncertainty of outcome, makes the ultimate victory (when it occurs) that much more sweet for those involved–a type of victory that a fictional story could never perfectly mimic. This is an edge the sports world will forever have over novels, plays, films, and almost every other form of entertainment, and is exactly why the whole world stops to marvel when the Florida Gulf Coast Universities of the world topple the Georgetowns.

  3. Matilda, I completely can relate to what you’re saying here. I actually feel bad for not knowing about the teams, and have honestly followed Michigan during the regular basketball season more-so than March Madness. I think I should start following now-ish. Is it too late, do I still have a chance? I love what you said about basketball (March Madness) being similar to writing, and it being a story. That was a great way to put it! Maybe I will follow now. I actually look at the highlights to make me feel inclusive to the basketball community, and get a kick out of the hostile environment between some players on the court. Thanks for the update, and hopefully by the end of the week I may have my fav teams or players that are a force to be reckoned with.


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