Screw It, I’m Becoming a College Basketball Fan
Picking a team to root for has never been a chore for me. If a team or sport didn’t reach out and grab me, I’ve never bothered to make an effort to be a fan of a sport or a team. This changed a little bit this year. After years of paying minimal attention to college basketball before I ripped the February sheet off of my calendar, I chose to adopt and actively cheer for a pair of teams at the start of the season. This runs counter to my nature, as I have always allowed my rooting interests to develop organically. Ultimately, however, this strategy left me a college basketball orphan. An alumnus of Miami University in Ohio, I didn’t (and still don’t) have the interest or ability to closely follow the ninth-best team in the mighty Mid-American Conference.
Having moved to Maryland this summer, and more importantly, having a father-in-law with a surplus of Terrapins tickets, my first “new team” was an easy pick. I’ve always been a (more or less) closet Xavier Musketeers fan, originally by birth, rather than choice. My parents met at Xavier longer ago than they would probably care to admit, and my brother will be a freshman there in the fall. With nearly all of Xavier’s games on national TV this season, I decided to actively follow the team this year, making it to a game in Cincinnati and one in DC in the process.
Happily, I’ll have a chance to put my investment to the test over the next couple of weeks. With my parents and family, my wife and I are going to New York this week to see Xavier play in the Big East Tournament. The following week, we travel to Pittsburgh to see the first round of the NCAA tournament, in the next edition of what is a yearly trip for her family. With a bit of luck, the Terrapins will be joining us in the Steel City as well.
It was with these family trips in mind that I made the conscious effort to be a better college basketball fan this year. Although basketball was the first sport that I was passionate about (growing up around Chicago in the 90s helped with that), I have never really been a college basketball fan, and despite my (not quite) best efforts, I am not sure that I even am now.
It had long been my position that I was incapable of feeling the same way about a college team (other than Miami) as I do about my professional teams. Without the rooting interest, my college basketball experience consisted of (poorly) picking games in the tournament, watching for three weeks, and mostly forgetting about the results shortly thereafter. I justified my lack of attention by claiming that the NBA offers a better brand of basketball (it does) and discounting the added element of the fan experience/atmosphere/etc. that college provides. Throw in the uglier aspects of the NCAA, the reverence in which far too many commentators hold far too many morally questionable coaches, and I was happy to be on the outside looking into college basketball fandom.
So what did I do? Naturally I ignored my better basketball and moral judgment and went all in. I’m so far in that I’ve got two of MY teams headed for tournament play – and what could be better than that?