Of course I’m not talking about the MVC, the WCC, or the MAAC – or any of those conferences for which there is but one invitation to The Big Dance. These tournaments mean everything –perhaps too much, as a team that dominates its conference during regular season play can have one bad night and see its season go down the drain. Certainly there is drama of the highest kind in the alphabet soup conferences.
No, I’m talking here about the glamour conferences. The ones that dominate media coverage of college basketball. The ones that are amateur in name only. The home of “one and done” players putting in their time before heading to the NBA. The Big East, the Big Ten, the ACC. These conferences have traditionally sent at least four teams to the NCAA tournament each year, and as they’ve grown in size by engulfing major media market teams from smaller conferences, they’ve gained even more at-large bids.
One could argue that the drama for these conference tournaments has been usurped; pretty much every team with a decent record is going to the NCAAs. When you really get down to it, you could actually make the case that winning one of these tournaments is detrimental to a team’s chances for March Madness success. For example, no Big East team has won the NCAA title since the conference expanded to 16 teams and instituted a conference tournament that brings to mind the Bataan Death March. Coincidence?
I do not bring this up merely to watch myself type. I had a decision to make.
It was the end of an era. Assuming of course, that a time span of just over three months qualifies as an “era”.
On this day, the U.S. Synchronized Team Skating Championships would proudly round out the winter sports portion of the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour.
I have to admit that, once actually onsite I’ve enjoyed each and every one of my Ice & Snow events. It was the process of getting to each venue that provided a steady stream of…how do I put this…“opportunities to exhibit problem-solving skills”. Yeah, that’s it – opportunities. Two feet of opportunity one day. Negative 29 wind-chilled degrees of opportunity the next.
So I reveled in the irony that the last Ice & Snow event would take place in the winter wonderland of Ontario. Ontario, California, that is, with its 80 degrees of sunshine bathing at least the outer confines of Citizens Business Bank Arena. Granted, it felt a little odd wearing two layers of clothing (and carrying a third) as I crossed the parking lot, but at least I could be sure that here the ice and chill would be confined to the arena.
“Excuse me sir, but before I can let you in, I need to know that you possess the multi-tasking capacity necessary to fully assimilate this meet.”
Then again, I’m glad they don’t test. Because based upon my early performance at the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships, I would flunk.
Walking in the door at the Albuquerque Convention Center, I was reminded of opening weekend of the fantasy football season, when each year without fail, I would freeze immediately upon entering my local sports bar – and then meander around aimlessly in search of the ideal seat for simultaneous viewing of every game in which one of “my guys” was playing. An aerial shot of me would look like one of those Family Circus cartoons with the big dotted line showing where Jeffy or P.J. had scampered off to that day, bless their annoying little hearts.
Curling is unlike any other sport. And if you have any cause to doubt the truth of that statement, consider this…
In the traditional beginning to a championship match, both teams are “piped on” to the ice by an actual live piper who typically plays “Scotland The Brave”. The teams then face each other and offer a toast of Drambuie (or ginger ale, where appropriate), and a simple but heartfelt, “Good curling”. And when it’s all over, the winning team buys a celebratory round of drinks for all concerned. All the time. No questions asked.
Which makes me think that this sport was made for me – I can lose and then drink free with the absolute best of them.
Broomstones Curling Club is located in Wayland, a leafy (well OK, it will be leafy in a few months) western suburb of Boston. It’s been around for a while – specifically since 1968, and currently boasts an active membership of about 400, a number that pretty much pushes capacity.
There are leagues almost every night of the week, and special events and competitions on most weekends, from October through March. And make no mistake about it – Broomstones is every bit a social club as it is a sporting club. This is not one of those country clubs where you know the people in your regular foursome and that’s it. No – these people interact.
How do I know all this? Sheila Hanley told me.
…Continued from the previous post.
In an imaginary sequel to Field of Dreams, a soccer-playing counterpart to Shoeless Joe Jackson might have said to Kevin Costner “Is this heaven?” To which Costner would have replied, “No, it’s Santa Barbara in December.”
Quite honestly, I don’t know how anyone manages to graduate from UC Santa Barbara. I’m not sure I could have made it across campus to a single class without being enticed off course. So I wondered how the NCAA could expect the soccer teams from Akron and Louisville to concentrate for the 90 minutes needed to determine our national champion.
Fortunately collegians are made of tougher stuff these days though, and not once do I recall anyone drifting away from play in the College Cup final to check out the surf. Even more impressive – a crowd of almost 10,000 fans suppressed the urge to wander as well.
On a December Sunday morning back then, if I were given the option of: (1) a 5-hour round trip drive to watch a soccer game; or (2) a day consisting of a couch, a remote and a full slate of NFL games, the beer and Cheesy Poofs would have won over the sunshine and fresh air in a landslide.
But on this particular December Sunday morning, it was quite the opposite. Somewhat distressingly, the NFL holds little in the way of enjoyment for me ever since about Week Three of the season, when I was mathematically eliminated from contention in the Demon Deacon Fantasy Football League.
Once I stopped fretting over whether Anquan Boldin was getting enough touches, I realized…I don’t much care about the football action that takes place increasingly sporadically among the steady onslaught of commercials. I know, I know – I’m aware that my U.S. citizenship is at stake for having said that out loud.
L.A. Times sportswriter Eric Sondheimer called the Northern Division Championship one of the best he’d ever seen in his many, many years of covering CIF Southern Section high school football. Hollywood is about 35 miles away from the town of Westlake Village, but they may as well have occupied the same ZIP Code during the game between arch-rivals Oaks Christian and Westlake.
It was one for the ages.
I wish I could have seen it.
But eight months into the IGTS Tour, my luck ran out. I was left with my nose pressed against the ticket window, so to speak. The game was sold out, and no amount of begging, pleading or influence peddling worked. Trust me, I tried. I made promises that would make a U.S. Congressman blanch. I was positively Cecil Newton-esque in my shamelessness.
Who would’ve thought – after successfully worming my way into 75 consecutive events, that the one that ended my streak would be a high school football game?
In this, the second consecutive rendition of “forward into the past”, join me as I return to the Claremont Club, in the shade of the majestic San Gabriel mountain range. Back in June I had traveled to see the CIF Southern Section Boys Tennis Championships, and now for the second time in three days, I was on a mission to see if the Girls Championships could one-up the boys in terms of athletic drama.
One thing immediately apparent on my arrival was that the girls could one-up the boys in terms of athletic spectators.
In my last visit, I was met with a robust selection of available parking spots, all within a short stroll of the tennis courts. I chose something from the “shady” collection and wandered in.
This time around, despite arriving at an earlier hour, and with only two of the five Division Championships set to begin, I was shown simply…the satellite lot. It was sufficiently far enough away from the tennis courts to make me wonder whether it was even on the Claremont Club property. I had to park between two buses, for crying out loud! Is this any way to treat an old friend?
But you take the bad with the good, because another difference I noticed immediately was tremendously enhanced signage. Truth be told, there were actually just two signs, but that was two more than were there in June. And one directed me to the restrooms – a strong value-add since it had been a two-Starbucks drive.
You know you’ve been doing this for a while when you start coming back to the same venues for season-ending events – and it’s a different season.
In late May, in Event # 15 on the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour, I visited Cypress College to take in the spectacle that was the CIF Southern Section Boys Volleyball Championships. Now half a year and 57 events later, there I was again – only this time to witness the distaff side do battle.
While one of the Boys Championships featured a school not too far away from the rustic home office of the IGTS Tour, the Girls Championships went one step further in terms of providing a rooting interest. The featured bout (there’s that boxing influence sneaking in again…) of the day-long volleyball extravaganza was the Division 1AA Championship match-up between heavily favored Long Beach Polytechnic High School and Redondo Union High School.
Long Beach Poly has spent a good bit of time this season at #1 in the MaxPreps Freeman Rankings. Not #1 in SoCal. Not #1 in the state of California. No, we’re talking #1 in the entire U.S. of A. Their appearance in the title game was, how shall I say it…not exactly breaking news. In fact, they had lost just one game in their combined play-off matches prior to the finals – and that by a score of 25 to 23. So they’re fairly good.