Letter: March Madness is more like March Sadness

Do you have March Madness fever? I sure don’t. James Naismith had a decent idea a century ago, but that’s all it was; a decent idea, not a great one.

Basketball is excellently suited for pickup games at the gym. It’s great exercise, doesn’t require much space or equipment, and you can play with almost any number of people. As an organized sport? Not so much. As an organized sport, basketball doesn’t make the least bit of sense. Basketball is as much of a sport as reality television is real.

If we look around at the other major sports, they all have a uniquely definitive beauty, a beauty basketball lacks. Football has the chess-match strategy meta game happening on a hundred different levels at once, baseball has summertime and statistics, hockey gives us a fluid mixture of finesse and raw brutality, and soccer retains its beauty through how it has been perfected as a sport. Basketball has what? Touch fouls? Yeah, that gets my adrenaline going. Stop the game; my guy just touched their guy!

Basketball is a sport reduced to tomfoolery by the unstoppable dominance of a few select players. If LeBron James wants to score, no one’s going to stop him. Hell, no one can stop him. Even if basketball players chose to play defense, which they rarely do, it’s physically impossible to deny the other team scores. In no other sport can you play perfect defense and still get scored on. Teams score dozens of times per game in basketball, rendering each basket relatively meaningless. It’s all a product of faulty rules and pure chance, even if the players thump their chests and pump their fists over every redundant first half field goal. This brings me to another point; coaching in basketball is over-hyped and ultimately inconsequential.

Don’t believe me? Is Erik Spoelstra a great coach? A better question would probably be, “who the hell is Erik Spoelstra?” Hint: he’s the coach of perhaps the NBA’s best team, the Miami Heat. Coaching doesn’t matter. Coaching basketball is like coaching a third-grade soccer team; point everyone in the same direction, and let your athletically-gifted players carry the team. In college ball, we might as well just replace the word “coaching” with “recruiting” because that’s all the coaches have to do. Befriend a decent recruiting class and you’ve already punched your ticket to the big dance. Talent matters in basketball; everything else is fluff.

While the previous criticisms are all severe detractments from the game, the following is where basketball falls flat on its face: the rules of the game don’t make any sense. Aside from the fact traveling is never enforced, in no other sport is purposefully breaking the rules not only an acceptable strategy, but a viable one. When a football team is down by a score, committing dozens of penalties doesn’t help them. In basketball, the final minute or two of every game is dominated by the ridiculous sequence of fouling and free throws. The worst two minutes in sports are the final two minutes of a basketball game, and those two minutes take hellishly long. But what about buzzer beaters, you ask? For every buzzer beater there are a dozen games ending with whistles and excess timeouts. I’d rather not sit through 39 minutes of garbage time just for the chance of seeing a meaningful bucket.

If James Naismith could see the sorry state of modern basketball, he surely would have set fire to his baskets and promoted something more worthwhile. Let’s call basketball for what it is: a terrible organized sport, saturated with divas masquerading as players, and a rule set straight from sports hell. So why do we follow March Madness every year? Simple; football is over, and baseball hasn’t yet started. Next year I plan on entering a medically-induced coma from post-Super Bowl Monday until opening day so I don’t have to live through March Sadness again.