Summer Smiles, Grad Gifts, and Great Giveaways
- May 31, 2023
For several months leading up to the NCAA’s March 12 Selection Sunday announcement of which teams would receive invitations to the “Big Dance,” many of the potential invitees were as nervous as teenagers eagerly anticipating their inclusion in a big high school social. The saying “been there, done that” is commonplace in our vernacular, and
For several months leading up to the NCAA’s March 12 Selection Sunday announcement of which teams would receive invitations to the “Big Dance,” many of the potential invitees were as nervous as teenagers eagerly anticipating their inclusion in a big high school social.
The saying “been there, done that” is commonplace in our vernacular, and many of you out there may have, sometime throughout your lifetime, experienced that awkward moment of what to do after the music stops. Think back to that seventh-grade dance, that first date, or an infatuation social encounter when you danced with someone you hoped to impress. After several moments on the dance floor, the music stops, and you are facing that awkward moment of what to do next.
Welcome to the club Kansas, Purdue, Arizona, Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, and a few other college basketball blue-bloods whose hoped-for opportunity to dance the Texas two-step at this weekend’s Houston’s Final Four site were unexpectedly silenced by a bunch of ill-invited party crashers from the likes of Arkansas, FDU, Princeton, Tennessee, Kansas State, and Miami. Other basketball outsiders, including Florida Atlantic, Furman, and Saint Mary’s, also showed fancy dance steps, much to the chagrin of some more experienced hardwood performers.
That’s the reality and the beauty of post-season play, regardless of what sport may be involved. The reaction to the silenced music isn’t always pretty. A whiteboard in the Purdue locker room was sporting a large-sized hole courtesy of frustration outbursts. Kentucky fans took to social media posts calling for the ousting of Hall-of-Fame coach John Calipari in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately rant.
“NIL (name, image, likeness) has changed things for these bigger schools. They can’t cheat anymore. It’s all above board (recruiting athletes), and now that it is above board, there will be places who are better at marketing/doing this stuff legitimately,” the message stated.
At defending 2022 champions Kansas, the reaction was a bit more reasonable. The Jayhawks waltzed to the NCAA’s first two songs without head coach Bill Self, sidelined by a heart-related hospitalization. The team defeated Howard University in its opening game before Arkansas ended its season with a 72-71 loss.
A disappointed but reasonable fan surmised, “It’s a tournament; anything can happen.”
The heartbreak of the music’s ending isn’t confined to the basketball court. While the hoop action was unfolding, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships were held in Tulsa, which saw one of the sport’s most stunning upsets take place.
Iowa’s Spencer Lee, considered one of the most dominant collegiate wrestlers, lost his 125-pound semifinal match when Purdue’s Matt Ramos pinned him. The loss denied Lee of a record-tying fourth straight national championship. As unthinkable as the end of Lee’s 58-match winning streak was, his mother’s reaction was even more eyebrow-raising,
Cathy Lee, a one-time flyweight judoka who won a silver medal at the 1991 Pan American Games, ripped off her glasses and tore them to pieces in full view of ESPN’s television cameras. If you haven’t seen the footage, it is worth a trip to the internet to view.
Much sweeter music and a whole lot of patriotic cheering took place at the recently completed World Baseball Classic, where a fun-filled fervent atmosphere culminated in Japan’s dramatic 3-2 win over the United States. The win was Japan’s third WBC title and ended in a true fantasy fashion.
Often referred to as the two best baseball players in the world, Los Angeles Angels teammates Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout provided baseball with a dream scenario with two outs in the ninth inning of the championship game. With the game on the line and Miami’s Loan Depot Park literally shaking with excitement and anticipation, Ohtani threw a 3-2 slider past a swinging Trout in an individual match-up long talked about.
“I saw him after his last at-bat out in the bullpen,” Trout related. “I think every baseball fan wanted to see that. I’ve been answering questions about that for the last month and a half. I had a blast.”
Regardless of the outcome, the WBC provided sweet music for baseball fans around the world. Very rich athletes and players most folks had never heard of became little boys again for a couple of weeks, proudly wearing the name of their respective countries across their chests.
There was compensation involved, with the total amount of money for the tournament being $14 million. The winning Japanese team received one million dollars. Teams that made it to the tournament’s semifinals each took home five hundred thousand dollars. Ultimately Japan was set to make up to three million in net prize money. All winnings are divided equally amongst the federation and players per tournament rules. Most WBC rosters consisted of 30 players, which means it’s 50k per player.
For the MLB players participating in the WBC, that amount might not be too much, but it could mean a whole year’s salary for other lower tier players across the globe.
With the two-week WBC sprint now concluded, MLB will begin its marathon 162-game journey this weekend. But regardless of this season’s outcome, the sweet music orchestrated by the WBC will be long remembered as a hit tune.