Embracing March Madness

Mar. 13, 2013 @ 06:11 PM

Around here, it is no secret that we count down the days to this month much like a child counts down the days to Christmas. March is, to steal a line associated with that holiday season, the most wonderful time of the year.

It is that, of course, because this month brings not just March winds but March Madness, that wildly appropriate cliché for our immersion in college basketball.  If the Kentucky Derby is the most exciting two minutes in sports, most fans – and this time of year, who isn’t a fan? – in this region would maintain we’re entering the most exciting 25 days in sports.

That count may be more precise than warranted. When do we start counting – from the season-ending match-up between Duke and the University of North Carolina? From today, the opening of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament? From Tuesday’s first tip in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament? From NCAA tournament selection Sunday three days from now? From last week’s ACC women’s tournament?

Whenever we start, we know when it ends – April 8, in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, when two teams meet to decide the men’s college basketball champion of 2013.

And here along Tobacco Road, most years – including this one – the faithful have at least a shot at watching a blue-clad team on that floor.

But before then, a lot of basketball will be played – and a lot of television watched, productivity lost, beer and nachos consumed, bets won and lost and water coolers surrounded by animated amateur analyses of and spirited arguments over the previous night’s game.

Conference tournament play began Wednesday night for North Carolina Central University, riding a red-hot 22-8 season (15-1 in the MEAC). The ACC tournament gets under way at noon today in Greensboro. Our Triangle neighbors from N.C. State University play this afternoon; Duke and UNC play their first tournament games Friday.

Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews embodies the spirit of the season. He’ll try to keep up with scores during the workday on his Android phone, he told The Herald-Sun’s Keith Upchurch this week.

And “at home, I usually have to go into another room to watch the game, especially if it’s close. My wife tells me she can’t take it, especially if it comes down to those last possessions and that last-minute shot.”

Those last-minute shots are among the peak experiences of March Madness, the ones which will be replayed on TV and recalled for months and even years to come.

Lots of memories will be formed and hopes raised and dashed over the next four weeks.

March Madness is a nationwide mania.  But here in the Triangle, we know it is more passionate than perhaps anywhere else.