By: Rachel Buck
Sports Information Assistant
As one season of sports begins its schedule of competition, it seems as though another sport, which has already put in a season of play, is starting a second season with a fresh start. And when it comes down to it, is there anything more exciting than tournament time? Regular season records are put on the back burner, becoming nearly irrelevant as game winners are decided more by the team that plays with more tenacity and heart than the numbers posted over the previous four months.
Maybe that’s what makes any post-season tournament exciting. Take the Olympic men’s hockey tourney for example. Now I know there aren’t a lot of fans in the Lex area that share the passion for hockey like I do, but you have to admit that thus far the play in the tourney has been outstanding. Facing elimination, teams that weren’t expected to compete have played their hardest, leaving it all on the ice because they know it’s do-or-die, opening the matches for anyone to grab. And it’s that tenacity, passion and drive for the game that makes this time of year special.
When you think about it, isn’t the Cinderella story the one everyone cheers for in post-season play (unless your favorite team is also playing)? That one team that has a low seed, isn’t expected to do anything but comes out of nowhere to post some big wins suddenly becomes the darling of the media and wins the hearts of fans. You want to see them do well, you want to see them advance, and when they don’t you feel just a little bit of disappointment that they didn’t go as far as you had hoped, even though they did better than everyone (except themselves and their fans) expected them to. It just oozes human-interest story and captures the hearts and imaginations of thousands.
The success of the W&L men’s basketball team last season is a great example of the Cinderella story. The team entered the ODAC tournament as the number eight seed, knocked off the number one seed in the quarterfinals and eventually advanced to the championship game…the lowest seed to ever play in the championship match. It helped to solidify W&L men’s basketball as a legitimate contender in the conference; no longer just a bottom-feeder that teams expected to beat on a regular basis.
Of course with the thrill of victory comes the agony of defeat, and severe disappointment when you have to realize that your season is over. Everything that you accomplished over the season seems irrelevant over one loss and the feeling that you didn’t go as far and play as well as you should have. It always amazes me how one game can completely change the mood of a team, sending them into the off season with a sense of disappointment and an unsettled feeling of “what could I have done” to make the difference. Also painful to watch are the seniors, knowing they have taken to the field/court/ice for one last time, and having the end of their career coming on a loss. All is forgotten about the excitement of just making it to the tournament, just being a contender, all because the last memory in their minds is a bitter one of a loss.
Amazing how both sides of the story can capture not only those who are a member of the competing school’s community, but also capture the interest of a nation. Hours are spent tracking teams, watching stats, scores and video to make sure not a moment of the action is missed (not to mention to make sure your tournament bracket stays intact). It’s hard to not get caught-up in all of the action and excitement when everyone around you is also interested/partaking. Suddenly the conversation around the water cooler becomes heated as individuals campaign for their favorite teams while finding themselves chatting with people they may not have talked to before, all because one unifying event of a post-season tournament brings a commonality of discussion to the table.
So be sure to tune-in to your favorite collegiate post-season play, whether it is basketball, hockey or any of the other sports that start their second season in March.
And if I may make one more campaign for hockey, I highly recommend tuning into the NCAA tournament this post-season. A great Cinderella story came out of last season’s tourney, with come-out-of-nowhere Bemidji State (for those of you wondering, Bemidji is in Minnesota) advancing to the Frozen Four in Washington, D.C. before falling to Miami of Ohio, who was a Cinderella in their own right. Of course the old standards of Denver University, Boston College, North Dakota and University of Wisconsin-Madison (GO BADGERS!!) are currently predicted be at the Frozen Four in Detroit this year, but the Cinderella’s from last year (Bemidji and Miami-Ohio) and a few new ones this year (a resurging Yale University and Cornell University re-building their programs in addition to the surprise of the season University of Maine) look to mix it up and make their presence known. It should be another exciting tourney!
And of course, good luck to all the W&L teams in their second seasons!