March Madness: we went there

On March 21, I went to Auburn Hills, Michigan to partake in the “Madness” for the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball championships.
I have been to many sporting events in my life, but this is definitely one the coolest I have ever attended. The basketball talent is not what made the event so spectacular. It had a lot more to do with the atmosphere and excitement of the fans throughout the arena. Coming from a Canadian perspective, it really made me upset that Canadian university athletics have not been able to replicate the similar success that the American system enjoys.
The first game I attended was Michigan University Wolverines vs. South Dakota State Jackrabbits. With the game happening in Michigan, the fans were very pro-Wolverines and there was little support for the number 13 seed Jackrabbits.
As the game began, I found myself standing for most of the first-half as the electric Michigan fans in front of me were living and dying after every shot attempt. The fans continued to sing school songs, taunt the other school and go crazy play after play, no matter what the score was.
The basketball itself was mediocre for the first-half and to put a pun on Michigan’s famous stadium the “Big House”, this arena felt more like the “Brick House”. It seemed like the Jackrabbits would never make a shot as a flurry of three-point attempts clanked off the rim.
The Wolverines would end up winning the game by a score of 71-56, with a little Canadian talent having a big influence on the result. Michigan’s starting point guard Nik Staukas (Mississauga, Ont.) made some big timely baskets and controlled the half-court offence tremendously, even as a freshman.
Staukas is far from the only Canadian talent in the tournament and because of this I wish our athletes had at least an option to stay closer to home. After being a part of this tournament, it made me realize how much of a joke the Canadian system is, and what ‘school spirit’ is actually all about.
For people to attend Brock’s athletic games, alcohol is usually a big influence on attending, instead of the love and passion for their school. The one time Brock gets a huge crowd for more than one game takes place during Homecoming, and a major factor in that attendance is Isaac’s serving alcohol by 11:00 a.m. Either that or it seems to take a playoff game or a free promotion to get a raucous crowd out.
Sure, there is obviously tailgating before the games at March Madness, but the games themselves were alcohol-free, and no one seemed to care. The fans were still as jacked up as if they had just slammed back 10 jaeger-bombs from start to finish.
One possible reason for this discrepancy is that bars are relatively more competitive for students’ leisure time than in the US due to the difference in legal drinking age. There is simply a bigger sports culture for the collegiate level, and the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) system has positioned itself better as a path to the professional level. For example, the NCAA is the biggest source for talent to the NBA, MLB and NFL, and is increasingly gaining traction as a path to the NHL. Canada’s path to the pros generally flows through U.S. with the exception of Hockey, but most come out of the Junior system. As Canada diversifies from a hockey-first (or professional-first) culture to a more diversified sports culture, this may begin to change.
Being able to look around the arena and see over 19,000 screaming fans – young and old – have so much joy from their team’s success made me frustrated with Canada’s university athletics even more.
The NCAA is far too superior over Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) financially and talent-wise to compete for the greatest Canadian talent now, so it is tough for students to cheer for something that many consider ‘second-tier’. However, my only hope is that the CIS can market their product well enough to make Canadians become more invested in their alma mater athletics, instead of being so worried about some school they have never heard of that just busted their March Madness bracket.

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