Missing out on March Madness — by design

The NCAA Tournament starts this week, and you know where I’ll be?

Cozumel, Mexico, until very late on Saturday.

I have no idea if I’ll have television access to the tournament there, and I’m not bringing a laptop.

And that’s absolutely fine with me.

Don’t get me wrong, I get caught up with the Tournament just as much as any other lounge chair bracketeer, but you know what? I need a vacation.

Those first two days are great, with all the upsets and all that, but it’s also sort of stressful, with everyone and their grandmother offering unsolicited updates on their bracket and asking about yours.

And I quite simply don’t need more stress in my life right now. As such, despite the fact that I usually do very well in fantasy baseball leagues — I estimate I watch probably about 200-250 games a season — I’ve decided to step back my involvement in that this year. As I get a bit older, I find I need to simplify things a bit in order to give me the opportunity to fully relax.

Hence, this trip to Mexico. I’ve only been out of the country twice: the Bahamas when I was like 10, and Canada in high school. I don’t really travel often, but I think it’s time to experience something I haven’t before — and to totally disconnect from all the responsibilities and technology that govern my life at times.

I find that I’m not really that broken up about missing those first two days of the Tournament. Let’s face it, the college game is screwy. I watch a lot of college ball still, but with the one-and-done rule, this system is broken. You know why there are so many upsets every year now? There’s the absolute top tier of teams that can win it all, there’s the bottom tier that’s just glad to be there — and then there’s nothing really separating the rest of the teams. In fact, as Duke and Butler showed last year, the difference between traditional powers and mid-majors is pretty much nonexistent.

I get back very late Saturday night, hopefully tanned — or as I usually strive for, not horribly burnt — and rested. I’ll have likely missed exactly one Duke game that I’m pretty sure they’ll win. And I think it’ll be refreshing to turn on the computer on Sunday and catch up on the storylines from those first few days without having to hear about them ad nauseum.

Know how I watched Duke-UNC on Sunday? On DVR, after picking up some stuff for this trip. As you get older, it stops mattering nearly as much to have to catch every minute of every game. There’s too much else going on in life to worry about that, even for a guy who eats, breathes and makes a living off sports.

Unless, of course, I catch wind Kyrie Irving is coming back to play on Friday.

If that happens, I’m chartering a plane.

*****

As you might be able to tell, SportsAngle will be on vacation at least through this week, but I look forward to returning far less burned out than I’ve been lately, ready to write about sneakers and rap music again.

Some final thoughts before I go:

— My dad went to San Diego State for grad school, so we’ve actually watched like six or seven games this year. They’re really, really good. As anyone who watched the Fab 5 documentary this weekend knows, Steve Fisher is a very good coach. The Aztecs are strong and physical, they have a solid senior point guard with a knack for clutch shots in D.J. Gay, and Kawhi Leonard is one of the best all-around players in the country and a future lottery pick. Everyone’s talking about UConn in that region, but I’ve seen a lot of both teams, and I think San Diego State is far more balanced and just a better team. They handled Jimmer Fredette on Saturday; I think they’d figure out Kemba Walker and have an edge in the frontcourt. Duke would have to play very tough to beat them.

— The Fab 5 documentary was brilliant. I wish I had time for a full post on it, but it’ll have to suffice that when I was growing up, I identified far more with them than with Duke, who I didn’t like for the same reasons I don’t like any other team that wins all the time. I still have a Michigan Chris Webber jersey in my closet, and though he’s the obvious fall guy for the whole Ed Martin situation — and the time outs — I can see where he’s coming from. Having seen Duke University and Nike make a whole lot of money off guys who were not seeing a dime as a result, these guys can feel like indentured slaves. If the money’s in front of you, and you’re indignant about that, you take it. And I found it to be incredible that Webber’s teammates may have been trying to coerce him into that time out — so unbelievable, in fact, that I would have to believe those members of the bench, like Webber, had lost track of how many the team had spent. They couldn’t possibly hate Webber that much. Could they?

— Don’t let my cynicism — some might call it realism — dissuade you from enjoying the Tournament. The college game wasn’t what it was, and one viewing of the Fab 5 doc would demonstrate that, but there are always still some great moments. That includes Gordon Hayward missing by about a quarter-inch a shot last year that would have resulted in the greatest game in NCAA history. Even with all the nonsense, the college game still has that underlying passion that makes this a great month to watch, whether you follow it all year or pick it up for your office pool. Considering the quality of the Big East, ACC, Mountain West and Ivy League tournaments, it’s great already.

Esoteric

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