By Dom Cioffi
This past Sunday, my son and I stayed up late to watch the Arizona vs TCU [Texas Christian University] NCAA men’s basketball contest. It was one of those nail-biter games from beginning to end, where either team could have grabbed the win. But in true March Madness fashion, this game ended in a memorable, newsworthy moment.
Arizona finished the regular season as the second-best team in the country (just behind Gonzaga); TCU was ranked 44th. While that’s not a true Cinderella match-up, it was surprising that TCU put up such a good fight against one of the nation’s top teams.
With seconds remaining in regulation time and the score tied at 75, TCU was poised to take the last shot to win the game. However, the TCU point guard lost control of the ball and had it stolen by an Arizona player who dashed down the court and dunked the ball as time ran out.
The fans went absolutely berserk as all the players rushed onto the court. But there was one problem: time had expired just before the ball made its way through the goal. The officials gathered around the scorer’s table for a review while the commentators replayed footage in super-slow motion to make their own determination.
After ample analysis, it was obvious to everyone that time had indeed run out just before the shot was made. Had the Arizona player released the ball 1/10 of a second sooner, they would have won the game with a walk-off dunk.
My son and I were glued to the moment, staring at the television and each other while the ending was determined.
When all the mayhem subsided and play resumed with a 5-minute overtime (in which Arizona handily won), I turned to my son and stated profusely, “And that’s why sports is the greatest theater.”
I’ve repeated that statement many times throughout my life, and I believe it whole-heartedly. There are some great motion pictures in this world, but very few can match up to the pure drama and excitement of a sporting event that is entrenched in competitive grandeur.
Granted, on the surface, even the best games don’t appear miraculous in nature. It’s only when you add in the specific context of the contest, the backstories of the players and coaches, and the traditions that accompanying teams and events. Mix that with grinding competitors who are fully invested in the moment, and you have all the makings of a beautiful manifestation of the struggle of life.
I’ve experienced both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat on countless occasions in my sporting career, and while the defeats expose the depths of pain, the victories express everything that is magnificent in life. I’ve seen a season come crashing down with one momentous mistake and I’ve seen great fortune bestowed upon those who fight against all odds.
I love sports, and the older I get the more I realize how important they are to the fabric of society. Without sport we would have painfully few ways to express our inner desire for perfection and even less ways to release the tensions of living. And while I have no proof, I’m confident that armed combat would be much more prevalent on a geopolitical scale if not for the arena of sport.
I pity anyone who has not made sports a part of their life, whether though playing themselves or rooting for a team or player. I’ve known several people who shy away from competitive environments, and I’ve always felt bad that they’ve missed out on a special aspect of life.
The Sweet 16 and Elite 8 of the NCAA men’s basketball championship will take place from Thursday through Sunday this weekend, with the Final Four and championship game occurring the following Saturday and Monday.
If you’re not a fan of basketball, I encourage you to tune in to one of these games and give it a try. Be sure to watch the pre-game show because that’s where the human-interest stories and discussions of strategy take place. Being armed with this info will make the game that much more inviting. If you’re lucky (and the chances are pretty good given what’s transpired thus far), you’ll witness a game that has drama far in excess of any film you could have watched.
With all the basketball being played this week, I simply could not find time to watch a film. And why would I? All the theater and excitement I could ask for was being delivered via college basketball.
This week, do yourself a favor an immerse yourself in this annual vestige of athleticism and competition — I promise, you won’t regret it.
A profoundly theatrical “A” for March Madness.
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]