Volume 91, Issue 87

Friday, March 13, 1998

Bottoms up



Money madness

March Madness will soon be in full swing, as teams vie for the ultimate in U.S. men's college basketball – the National Championship.

Whoever thought of this format is a genius. A made-for-television drama that unfolds before our eyes over a three-week span. This drama portrays stars we've never heard of before, acting out cinderellaesque stories that often have storybook endings. The plot is always changing and despite efforts by many, no one really knows the outcome until it happens.

This year's tournament will reportedly gross somewhere in the realm of $17 billion for the NCAA. Think of the possibilities that kind of money, or even half of that, even a quarter of that, could do for our student fees. Although it may not all go to the students, this is the kind of thing Canadian university athletics could follow. Unfortunately they won't. Or rather, based on a general lack of interest on the part of Canadians, they can't.

Does anyone know who is in the CIAU basketball finals? Did anyone know that they were even going on? Even here at The Gazette, we've forgotten, printing a full-page spread on the American tournament but nothing on the Canadian championships once Western was eliminated. There's basketball pools floating all over campus. Any of them for the CIAU's? No, just the NCAA.

Here in Canada nobody seems to care about our student athletes, who work hard day in and day out for the love of the game. Having witnessed university games on both sides of the border, it is justifiable to make the claim that the only real difference between the two countries is not the calibre, but the atmosphere.

In the States, everyone supports the college game and for many it is passion, much like hockey is to Canadians. Playing in front of sold-out crowds of 40,000 people would get anyone's adrenaline going and raise their play to unbelievable levels (something the NCAA counts on). Anyone who has ever played sports knows it is much more fun and exciting to play before a packed house than an empty gym. Unfortunately, this is not feasible in Canada, with venues not large enough. But who cares, they rarely fill anyways. And this not only holds true for basketball, but look at football as well. A good bet would be that more people saw an American bowl game than the Vanier Cup this year.

It is sad to see so many great athletes at the university level forgotten by the sports fans of Canada for the simple reason that the Americans can put on a better show. This NCAA tournament is in place for one reason and one reason only – because the people wanted it and what people want tends to make money for whoever can provide it. People wanted excitement put into their games and that is what they got. Sixty-four teams battling it out for top spot in the nation, all with an equally good chance – lose you're out, win you stay.

The marketing genius of the U.S. has once again reared its ugly head here in Canada, making us forget about our own talented athletes in favour for the made-for-TV tournament and the drama it provides. We have to realize there is as much drama north of the border. Every athlete plays to win; north, south, east or west. And that makes for as much drama here in Canada as it does in the States – we just have to care!

Do one thing this weekend if you are at home on Sunday watching the NCAAs – tune it to TSN and try to catch the Canadian men's basketball final. Watch what the Canadian players do. Watch the execution. Look at the passion in their eyes. Geez, they almost could be American.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998