' Cinema Romantico: The Madness!!!!! The Madness!!!!!

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Madness!!!!! The Madness!!!!!

Recently, I was berated by several irate and doggedly loyal devotees of this blog who were upset I have not updated in awhile. I understand their frustration. But this is the time of year known as March Madness and the when the Madness starts my movie-going (and blogging) take a rest. I did rectify that this weekend but before we delve back into the world of movies I feel the need to self-indulge and go on a tangent unrelated to cinema. But you know what? It is related to cinema. What happened yesterday was so glorious it was cinematic in its grandeur.

Have you ever seen “Hoosiers”? It’s generally considered one of the greatest sports movies ever made, if not the greatest. It’s the tale of the Hickory Huskers - the ultimate underdog -winning the state high school basketball championship – a David slaying a Goliath in the sports arena. At the end – before the championship game – the coach asks his players if they have anything to say. One of the players says, “Let’s win this one for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here.” It chokes me up every time.

As many of my faithful readers know I’m a passionate fan of college (not pro) basketball. The first day of the NCAA Tournament is my own personal holiday. I watched my first Final Four exactly 20 years ago. Oddly, they showed a clip of that Final Four this past weekend. They players were all in those horribly short shorts and the footage was amazingly grainy. God, am I getting old.

But as a tried and true fan of the college game, my favorite part of the NCAA Tournament has always been and always will be the “little guy”. The tiny schools that spring unforgettable upsets or come within a gasp of winning the game they’re not supposed to win. I still remember where I was when 16th seeded Princeton came within a point of taking down mighty Georgetown nearly 15 years ago. And I vividly recall sitting on the floor of Miss Carlson’s 6th Grade Classroom with several students who understood March Madness super-ceded hot lunch as we listened on the radio to the forever immortal (in my book) Maurice Newby sink a 3-pointer at the buzzer to hoist his 14th seeded Northern Iowa team to an improbable upset of Missouri.

But that’s how if often works for the “little guy”. They win one game – or play one game tough – and then they’re done. They have their fleeting moment of glory, often to be relived through highlights each March, but nothing more. But as a fan I often wondered how amazing it would be if one of the “little guys” – a Cinderella, if you will – did more than win just a single game, or two games, or even three. What if they somehow scrapped out four victories and found their way to the promised land that is supposedly reserved only for the beasts and “names” of college basketball?

Well, here it is 20 years later, and the inconceivable has happened. George Mason University is going to the Final Four. Wait, let me say it again! In fact, say it with me! Scream it at the top of your lungs! George Mason University is going to the Final Four! That is not a misprint. Fairfax, Virginia’s own George Mason University of the Colonial Athletic Conference is playing on the biggest stage basketball of any level has to offer. Duke won’t be there. North Carolina won’t be there. Nor will Kentucky. But tiny George Mason will. I love it. God help me, I do love it so. The team a couple "know-it-all" announcers said the day the tournament field was revealed did not deserve a spot ahead of other "top" teams will be there. Please forgive me for saying it once more but I must – George Mason University is going to the Final Four. I will say - admittedly still in the post-game glow - this might be the most exciting event in my 2o years of college basketball fandom.

A few years ago on salon.com Andrew Leonard authored a wonderful essay singing the praises of upsets in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament. Leonard called them "lessons in civic virtue" - likening them to the dumping of tea in Boston Harbor. But yesterday's event is better. I would liken George Mason's advance to the Final Four to Washington crossing the Delaware to take Trenton. And if the utterly unfathomable somehow happens and George Mason pulls out two more victories next weekend it would be the equivalent of the British playing "The World Turned Upside Down" after the Battle of Yorktown.

Come 5:07 PM next Saturday I will be on the couch rooting for a Final Four team harder than I've ever rooted for one before. I hope they win it all. I hope they win it for all the small schools that never had a chance to get there.

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