We had some good times, theres no doubt about it. Nassau Coliseum, 1994? Ill never forget it. Dancing in the aisles after Penn beat Nebraska, one of the great nights of my college career.
I already was smitten in the spring of 1989, watching those Flying Illini, but that night on Long Island sealed the deal.
And for the two decades since, what a relationship weve had. The places weve gone. The moments weve shared. All the wrecked brackets weve left in our wake. Its been a fun time.
But its over. Youve changed.
You know what? Im over you, NCAA tournament. Im not in love anymore. Im ready to move on.
Its not me. Its you.
Its hard to pinpoint the moment when it all started to fall apart, but all the signs are there.
You were always a stickler for protocol Only NCAA cups allowed beyond this point has always been the cute little inside joke of our Marches together but now youre that way about everything. All business, all the time.
You celebrate your corporate partners and pretend to care about student-athletes while making them play after midnight, get back to campus early Monday morning, and leave again Wednesday afternoon.
And now youre running with a different crowd. All these new friends, Charles Barkley and all his Turner pals, they dont know you like I do. You run around, trying to impress them, and they dont care. Its obvious from the way they treat you. All theyve done is kept you out late on Sunday nights.
Remember when we used to spend Sunday afternoon together, getting home in time to watch 60 Minutes? Remember your old friends, like Billy Packer and Gus Johnson? They knew what you were all about.
We used to go neat little places, gyms that had the spirit of college basketball inside them, places the game made famous and vice versa. Now it seems like we only go to the big-box stores and chain restaurants of sports giant football stadiums where you can hardly tell a basketball game is taking place.
In Indianapolis, at least, it was in the end zone of Lucas Oil Stadium. The pictures from Arlington, Texas, were frightening, a vast enclosed space with a court hidden somewhere in the middle.
Thats no place to watch a basketball game. Thats no place to play a basketball game. Its soulless, heartless, cynical and greedy everything the NCAA tournament has become.
You even took away our media seats to sell a few more tickets. Oh, I know others dont care about that, but thats what brought us together, and now its driving us apart. Its what made you so much fun to spend time with, and thats gone now.
Its all about the money. I guess it always was, but things were still rough enough around the edges to pretend that it wasnt.
From a distance, I guess all the drama is still there, but its sanitized now. We once had something real, and now it feels as contrived and fake as Real Housewives of the NCAA tournament.
I know youll do fine. Youve never been more popular, so I guess Im happy for you. Its what youve always wanted, to be more like your friends in the NFL and NBA, bigger than big, arm in arm with the Fortune 500. The ratings are through the roof.
But thats not what I fell in love with, so our relationship from now on will be strictly business. Ill still come around to see you in March, but there wont be any romance. This is a financial arrangement, and lets not pretend it isnt.
Well always have Long Island.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947