Winter Olympics. They are happening, at least I think they are still going on. Not to be a complete hater, but really they are just taking up airtime until the main event commences on 14 March 2010. I am a total sports fan, f’real. People who know me would certainly substantiate this, but I have a hard time getting on board with curling. And men’s artistic figure skating. [Apolo Ohno is working for me though, and not just because his last name is Oh!No!, and in spite of his 5’7″-ness.] Sport has always been about the competitive value for me, so I can get into just about anything if there is some element of – “onohedint!” and I was going to try to jump on the Winter O bandwagon too, but then SPalin started getting all excited about it because of hockey and I threw up a little in my mouth and moved on.
I follow sports as much as I can in the athletic wasteland that is Hong Kong, but it is a challenge for various reasons: I do not have cable and cannot abide the local channels, I am still struggling to accept a sport that takes daaaaays and they break for tea seriously, cars don’t really strike me as sporty and horse races often make me sad, I find ping-pong goes better with cheap lager and frat boys than national competitions, and while I can get with soccer, it is the last 90 seconds I care about – unless there is no score, then… snooooooze. But mostly it’s because people here don’t do NCAA Basketball.
Shame. But I do enjoy the benefits of Asian cuisine, so in many ways this has been the trade off: Sports for Spice. Ok.
The lack of interest in the NCAA tournament in Hong Kong is no longer a major dilemma for me. Every year I make further adjustments so in spite of the complete dearth of interest in my immediate geographical confines, I have managed to work out how to stream most of the feeds via the internet and I know I can adjust my sleep patterns to catch the key games if need be. And so, here I sit anxiously anticipating Selection Sunday which will kick off late late late on Sunday night March 14 (for me).
I can’t wait. It is and has always been the best way for me to beware the ides of March, that longest and dreariest of months holding summer at arm’s length.
This is likely one of the most fun times to be fanatical in my opinion. Other times that rate nearly as high include extra-innings in the sunshine (gotta be live), high school sport championships a la CIF, the 4×400 at any event – best ever (on the track not in the pool so much, though relays add a lot to most races.) I have not found a better venue for pure vitriol or maniacal ardor than putting up the classic basketball powerhouses against the little guys or each other. College basketball fans are some of the most creative fans ever. And while not always bastions of intellectual greatness, they bring everything they can when it comes to basketball of which the pinnacle is, of course, the tournament. These guys even get nicknames. And I love that some of my most loathed teams are some of the best known… what a great bull’s eye to hone in on. The eRUPPtion zone, the Izzo-ne, the Grateful Red, the DogHouse, the Pit, the Zoo, and I reluctantly admit, the Cameron Crazies (of which old Dickie V. certainly has a lifetime membership as he sails the seas of subjective sports reporting.)
There is so much that college hoops have to offer… and as I love a list, here are ten very cool things. I am not sure why college basketball is not taking off over here, I mean all of the people I work with want to go to school in the US, they should get an education in this stuff. They are always asking me where I think they should go to school [bear in mind, if it is not private, expensive or über elitist, it is likely not under consideration, but that hardly limits some key hoop schools…] I resist giving them this list and sigh as I stick with the US & World Report Rankings. Nothing underscores the misunderstanding of college sports over here better than this story. One of my students who was heading off to USC a few years back told me in passing, that he thought he might play football at USC. I stopped in my tracks.
“You mean soccer?” I inquired.
“No, American football.”
“Umm. Oh. Do you play football?”
“No, but I play rugby for my school here in Hong Kong.”
“Well, intramurals, are fun, you will love them.”
“No, I mean play for USC.”
“The football team for the University of Southern California?”
“You know, USC has a very storied football program, they are typically one of the strongest programs in the US.”
“I know. That is why I think it would be so cool.”
*pause pause pause*
“Wow. Well, the thing with NCAA sports is that you have to complete the NCAA clearing house (paperwork) and, well, for some of the bigger programs, like USC football, the coaches have generally sort of worked out who will be playing for them a little bit ahead of time.”
“Oh. So, like do you think I could try out when I get there?”
“I am not entirely sure. You may want to look at the intramural sports though. You know a lot of the universities in the states offer all sorts of sports for recreational competition.”
“Oh yeah? Cool. Then I’ll just do that.”
More recently a student was telling me how pissed off she was that one of her classmates got into a fairly well-known Big 12 school “Just because she can swim! I mean, she doesn’t EVEN have the grades. It is so unfair. And she is, like, totally getting a scholarship!” All I could think about was how diametrically opposite this view was from so many places I have taught in the States where my students would not even be impressed by someone getting into a “good” school on academic merit – but an athletic scholarship! Oh.My.God.
Ah, the East and the West… ever the twain shall meet? Will there ever really be full Sporty & Spicy fusion?
I certainly am not endorsing subscribing to a jocko-meathead point of view, but at the same time, I cannot imagine what it would be like to be totally unaware of the talent that these athletes posses. Not that they are all great students/people/pro-candidates… but for a few short years, they bring March Magic to life and I am so down with that. In two weeks I will have all of my students fill in their NCAA brackets, and most of them will have no idea what they are doing, but they will do it all the same, and then as the tournament progresses one thing they will understand for sure is the idea of having picked the right “answer.” Everyone understands the concept of winning and losing, and losing is not how it is done over here. And they will be (to varying degrees) more interested in my obsession with the little tiny live feed that never gets shut off on my desktop while we plug along through literature, essays, social sciences and interview preparation.
It’s the best way I can think of to mix the sporty me with the spicy me. And just so you don’t feel like Sporty up there was a total ruse.. I give you this: