By Christopher Miles
March 18, 2014
Some choose warm weather and sandy beaches. Others opt for the snowy slopes of some picturesque mountain region. Some even fly to Las Vegas and never breathe a drop of fresh air nor see the sun during their entire stay.
There are many ways for one to escape the craziness of the job, the stresses of home, or the unpredictable weather Mother Nature throws at us prior to spring break.
Me? I’d much rather have the squeak of sneakers on hardwood, the melodic beats of a basketball being bounced and the sweet sound of a round ball ripping through nylon nets as the thrill of March hoops fills the air.
Yes, it’s that time of year again and my annual trek through the month of a basketball-filled March started last weekend at the Big 10 men’s basketball tournament in Indianapolis.
It didn’t matter what the weather was like outside. I could have cared less about tee-times, lift-ticket prices or happy hour. Forget about relaxation and a completely stress-free environment, tensions were high inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse and that’s just the way it should be when teams are playing for a conference championship.
We all deal with things in different ways and in this case the best way for me to escape is to take in college hoops. There’s no better sporting event on the planet than the NCAA men’s basketball tournament which starts this week and in my opinion there’s no better therapy for clearing my head.
Some people run long distances to clear their minds, I’d prefer my marathon basketball sessions. Hours and hours of sitting and watching. Coaches yelling, fans screaming, sports writers eating, there’s nothing else like it. It takes a special skill to sit around for upwards of 12 hours watching nothing but basketball, don’t believe me? Try it sometime.
Here are three things I took away from my weekend in Indianapolis:
1. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has a way with words.
He comes across as a crotchety old man on television and I quickly found out sitting within ear shot…he’s just that. He’s about as cheery as someone waiting in a dentist’s office for a root canal.
Every call that went against his team was a bad call and every call that benefited his squad was well overdue. You kind of get the feeling he could make even Santa Claus grumpy.
2. The whole coach-referee relationship is complicated.
There may not be another work-related relationship more bizarre than the coach-referee interaction in a conference tournament setting.
One side gets to spend the entire game yelling at the other, pointing out every single thing he thinks he did wrong or missed, all in hopes of getting that same person to do something for them, as in make calls that favor their team. Then when all the yelling is over, the coach that just picked up the win has to turn around and do it all over again the next day.
Every conference partners with a collection of referees for a weekend-long tournament which means the same guy a coach criticized for hours straight the day before could be the same guy working the next the game the next day. Can you say awkward?
3. Indianapolis is a much better host city for a basketball tournament than Chicago.
The Big 10 has been yo-yoing back and forth from Indy to Chicago with its tournament and the fact of the matter is Indianapolis is simply a better fit for the fans.
Oh sure Chicago is much bigger, is the home of the Big 10 and a fantastic city. But take it from somebody who’s done this tournament in both locales, Indy is better.
First of all Bankers Life Fieldhouse is so much more quaint and a much better venue for viewing basketball than the cavernous United Center. Secondly the downtown location in Indy is situated within a massive collection of bars, restaurants and hotels all within a five-10 minute walk.
Chicago on the other hand has a great collection of things to do, but the United Center is located in the middle of absolutely nothing. There are very few places to immediately walk to and enjoy between games, making Indianapolis the clear-cut winner.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.