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Joseph: NCAA tournament is new beginning for sports (Mar. 5)

Allan Joseph | Sunday, March 4, 2012

It’s that time of year again — finally.

February is sports winter. After the Super Bowl, there’s little to tide us over, as Andrew Owens astutely pointed out in his column last week. Sure, there’s the occasional college basketball thriller, but we’re more likely to watch conference races spiral to their inevitable conclusions. Yeah, the NBA is on, but when Jeremy Lin sparks two weeks of rabid conversation, we’re a little bored. Baseball is just waking up from its dormant winter, and football is so far away we’re talking about NASCAR. I mean, seriously. NASCAR.

But all that is about to change, because it’s that time of year again.

March Madness is about to hit us. First, we have the ever-entertaining conference championships as a nice appetizer, highlighted by the ever-unpredictable Big East tournament from Madison Square Garden. For five days, the world’s most famous basketball arena is home to high drama, as bubble teams fight for the right to keep playing, while struggling teams try to seize their opportunity to be remembered.

After that wild end to the season — and many sleepless nights for ESPN ‘bracketologist’ Joe Lunardi — Selection Sunday hits, and 65 (oops, make that 68) teams begin dreaming of cutting down nets. We fill out our brackets, then tear them up and start all over right before our bracket pool’s deadline — then tear them up when teams like Northern Iowa, VCU and George Mason blow them to smithereens anyway.

We root for Cinderella, unless she’s playing our favorite team. We have the TV tuned to one game, the computer tuned to another and the iPad to a third. And yet, we seem to miss at least one shining moment — though never “One Shining Moment” — each year.

It’s a lot of fun, yet it’s not the only reason this time of year is great.

In one of the most underappreciated postseasons in sports, college hockey begins its mad sprint to the Frozen Four. All it takes is a hot goalie for a struggling team to reach the pinnacle, while even the slightest unlucky bounce to knock the heavy favorite out of contention. Let’s not even get started on overtime hockey, which is one of the most suspenseful events in sports — especially when entire seasons are on the line.

Yet, there’s more.

College football players around the country head to spring practice, and while it isn’t quite the same as the fall, spring offers a tease of the season ahead, awaking dormant memories with each crack of the pads. Plus, spring game tailgates mean we all get an excuse to shake the rust off our grilling skills before the summer ahead.

And let’s not forget perhaps the most important part of March: baseball is back.

Sunbirds in Florida and Arizona get to see their favorite teams all in one place, as the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues get underway, accompanied by the sound of bat meeting ball, the smell of freshly cut grass and the promise of a new season and pennant race ahead.

The NBA playoffs are around the corner, and the Masters loom for Tiger Woods and golf fans while Jim Nantz practices his hushed voice.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Soak it up and enjoy it. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Contact Allan Joseph at ajoseph2@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.