Sunday, March 20, 2011

The NCAA = Mr. Austere

March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. Given that UCONN played its first round game in Washington, I flew to the nation's capital to watch the game with Brett.

The NCAA has turned the basketball game into a plain vanilla experience. The Verizon Center in Washington, the venue for UCONN's game as well as three others held on Thursday, was denuded of any personality. The advertisements in the arena were covered. The wrap-around electronic display in-between levels only showed a blase greeting: "Welcome to the 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball 2nd and 3rd Rounds."

The replay screen above the court showed the game in real-time. No advertisements. No "pump up the volume" pleas during key portions of the contest. During halftime, they ran screens showing random trivia, NCAA buzzer beater moments, and video montages of previous tournaments.

No beer was sold inside the arena. I could not find a hot dog, either. And the sodas came in only one size, a souvenir NCAA cup. You got the feel that the entire event was scripted in a detailed, multi-volume event guide provided by the NCAA with severe penalties for non-compliance.

It's as if the NCAA wants to make sure that once inside the arena, the fan is locked in to watch the game and the game only. If you are not a basketball purist, there's no need to attend. I found the experience a bit bizarre, even though I did have a good time.

And the latest example of why this is one of the greatest times of year? The ESPN advertisement below. Enjoy!

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