As the splendid readers of our Two-Daily Town kissin’ cousin know, the hardworking staff is a proud alum of Xavier University, whose basketball team took a Brody in the NCAA West Regional semifinal. But all is not lost! The Musketeers were winner in Joseph Epstein’s Wall Street Journal March Sadness piece chronicling his growing disillusion with “scholar-athletes . . . rented, like bridge chairs for a large dinner party” by various and sundry institutions of (less than) higher learning.
Such dark thoughts have been spinning through my head as I have attempted to watch, without much success, this year’s NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, March Madness, or the Big Dance, as it is also sometimes called. Because of these thoughts, I can’t get into it. I can’t find a team I want to win; only a few I hope will lose—Kentucky, Louisville, Oklahoma—because the reputation of their coaches is so shabby.
And yet . . .
Coaches, like women in T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” come and go, speaking not of Michelangelo but instead eagerly seeking more dough. Good small-school teams arise—in recent years, they have included Xavier and Butler—and one’s natural tendency is to cheer them on as the genuine underdogs they are. Soon, though, their coaches, the true reason behind their success, depart: Xavier’s to the sports factory that is the University of Arizona, Butler’s to the NBA. In the end, the weak get weaker and the strong stronger.
As Marv Albert would say . . . Yes!
P.S.: Xavier lost to – yes – the University of Arizona Thursday night.
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P.P.S. Joseph Epstein is the author, most recently, of Masters of the Games: Essays and Stories on Sport (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015).