Saturday, April 05, 2008

Get Ready For July Madness

"Can't repeat the past? Of course you can!"- Jay Gatsby

One can't help watch this year's Final Four and its great teams with great traditions, without thinking about the past. Actually, it seems that a big part of the CBS presentation of the NCAA men's basketball tournament every year is a constant invocation of history. I think I've seen Christian Laettner's 1992 buzzer beater every year since it happened. And thinking about great teams and great tournaments of the past, a sudden and (I think) brilliant idea occurred to me. Every year, a 20-year-anniversary tournament should be staged, bringing back all the teams and as many players as possible that played two decades back. For example, this year we would have been treated to Danny Manning trying to reprise his 1988 performance and lead his Kansas team to another championship, with competition along the way from an Oklahoma team led by Stacey King and Mookie Blaylock, and Kentucky with Rex Chapman. The tournament could be in July, when not much other than baseball is on the sports calendar. We'll call it "July Madness."

The first obstacle would be convincing the players to suit up again, but I actually think this would be one of the easiest tasks. Of course, if they stand to benefit financially from participating, I think it would be a slam dunk to convince them (pardon the ham-fisted pun), but even if you couldn't guarantee much more than traveling expenses, I still think you'd stand a chance to convince most of them. You might encounter a few prima donnas, but I think a lot of guys would relish the chance to recapture the glory of their youth. Most college players don't go onto distinguished pro careers, and even the ones that do have shown that they are willing to play for nothing to represent their country in the Olympics. Is representing one's alma mater a substantially less pull? Plus, they would have the added excitement of re-connecting with old teammates. Chris Webber, who recently retired from the NBA, once said that he remembered every college game he played in his one year, and that it was the most fun in his life that he had playing basketball. Banged up body or not, you don't think he'd love the chance to re-take the court with the Fab Five for one more run, with a chance to make up for his infamous time out gaffe?

But even if the players are on board, the tournament is a no go if there is not substantial public interest in watching it, or in buying tickets. Is the public really interested in seeing a bunch of out of shape old guys trying to get up and down the court? My guess is that they are. The PGA Senior Tour is a lucrative enterprise, in large part because old guys, though they can't compete with youngsters, can still play golf. Basketball is one sport where people in their late 30s and early 40s can still operate at a fairly high functional level, without risking catastrophic injury. You won't see as many alley-oops, but you might actually see better fundamentals and execution.

But while highly competive games would be nice, the real selling point of the tournament is the chance to re-live the past. And if anyone doubts that this is a real phenomenon in American entertainment, all they need to do is look at Pollstar's annual list of the highest grossing concert tours, which usually features the likes of the Rolling Stones, Eagles, Police, etc... It's about time that the sports industry capitalizes on what the music industry has been riding for years now.

One of the tantalizing prospects of a tournament is that it offers what is rare in sports, especially college sports: a second chance. How much would the 1985 Georgetown team or the 1983 Houston team give to prove that they were the best teams in the tournament those years? The proposed tournament would also give players a second chance, and not only in the case of guys like Webber who made on-court mistakes, but also in the case of players who underachieved at the pro level or made bad decisions off the court.

There are legal and logistical problems that would have to be ironed out. Would the tourney be sponsored by the NCAA? If not, could the organizers secure the rights to team names and logos? Where would the games be played? But I think if there is money to be made, if the players are up for it, and the fans want to see it, such a thing can happen. And I think these questions all can be answered affirmatively. The only thing better than "One Shining Moment?" How about "Two Shining Moments"?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Azor I really liked reading your blog. I can see and understand the argument at hand!

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I have to say that this was a good blog, but I definetly don't watch the final four! If there was a final four in the musical world then I would though :) Let me know what you discover!

3:46 PM  

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