Yes, this column is a day late. Probably a dollar short, too, but there were a lot of things going on Wednesday. I figured you'd be more interested in reading about those than whatever I could come up with on the 12 remaining brain cells I've got on duty (districts week is tough).
These are exciting times, with playoff games going on in all sorts of locations, genders and ages. It's kind of like the sports equivalent of an all-nighter. Sure, your body will remind you of the wisdom of going at this pace later on, but you can get a good night's sleep in April.
But the reason that March is more exciting than say, January, is because it's dangerous.
Sports is like emotional gambling, and so even the biggest juggernaut in the bracket, whether it be basketball, hockey, etc., knows that they're risking months (or years) of work being rendered completely in vain (at least for the present) by one bad performance.
Case in point: the Marquette hockey team, fresh off winning the Great Lakes Hockey Conference at the Colosseum last week, will be packing up its gear this week.
The Redmen lost 2-0 at Kingsford in the Division 2 regionals Thursday - oddly enough, after taking the step down from Division 1.
One more week to go, and I've got something to cry about: my picks, which despite an excellent 8-3-1 week, will fall well short of the stated 60 percent goal. The MacNaughton Cup is locked down for North Dakota, but a lot of other seeding is up for grabs. Here's a quick look:
North Dakota at Michigan Tech
With both teams going at it in Grand Forks next weekend, it's likely that both the Sioux and Huskies will play it close to the vest. Once ND ensures an outright win of the MacNaughton Cup Friday, Tech will capitalize on having more to play for to get a shock win for Senior Night. Why not?
The Verdict: ND 5-2 Friday, Tech 2-1 Saturday
Nebraska Omaha at Minnesota Duluth
The wheels appear to have come off for UMD, but with a majority of the points this weekend in Duluth, the Bulldogs can still finish third in the league. If not, that spot goes to the Mavericks. UNO's split last weekend with Denver removed both teams from title contention. Another split this weekend will be enough to ensure an All-Maverick first-round series (if my intuition is correct).
The Verdict: UMD 4-3 Friday, UNO 5-3 Saturday
Colorado College at Wisconsin
Here's the big one: Two points or more for the Tigers guarantees a home playoff series, while Wisconsin is just a point behind in seventh. It gets worse for the Badgers: UW is winless in its last six and has only two wins in its last 12 games with CC. Looks like there'll be angry people in Madison at more than just the state capitol.
The Verdict: CC 6-3 Friday, UW 3-2 Saturday
Minnesota at Bemidji State
The first home slate of Bemidji State hockey at the Sanford Center goes out with a bang as the Beavers host a Minnesota team on a roll but needing to take care of business to lock up home ice. There'll be a Tom Serratore on both benches this weekend, as one plays for the Gophers and the other coaches the Beavers. Bemidji is getting better, but Minnesota will get what it needs.
The Verdict: UMn sweep 4-3, 2-1
Alaska Anchorage at Minnesota State
No home ice in play for either side, but with a series win, the Mavericks can have a winning record going into whatever road trip it has next weekend. Also, a sweep can catapult MSU over Anchorage (and Bemidji) in the league standings. The Mavericks are rested, while UAA had to play two rivalry games with Alaska (Fairbanks) last weekend. Take it from me, rest is good this time of year.
The Verdict: MSU sweeps 5-3, 3-2
St. Cloud State at Denver
Both teams are playing outside chances: St. Cloud for home ice (needs a sweep, help, and tiebreakers), Denver for a share of the league title (probably not happening). Denver's not playing great hockey right now, though St. Cloud can claim a sweep of Wisconsin last weekend. We'll go with the split.
The Verdict: SCSU 4-2 Friday, DU 6-3 Saturday
Last Week: 8-3-1
For the Season: 105-80-18
So, when blood and sweat are invested into a project that goes awry, the only dividend returned is tears.
As far as I can remember, the last sporting event that made me cry was Super Bowl XXXII, which I have not yet been able to admit took place. (I was in middle school.)
Soon after, I began to realize that the only way I was going to make a meaningful contribution on the field was by bringing a pen, which isn't the same kind of emotional investment. Within a few years, I'd graduated to curse words and the occasional thrown small object.
Approaching March from a writer's standpoint is much different - if anything, you try and make yourself more detached from the events going on around you, recognizing that your subjects are already happy or sad or angry or depressed enough without any sort of post-game amplification.
There is, according to Tom Hanks ("A League of Their Own"), no crying in baseball. But we're not talking about baseball yet, at least not until more than half of Spring Training games are played by guys with numbers below 75.
There is, most definitely, crying in basketball. If you were to go on YouTube and look up the last 10 versions of "One Shining Moment," the video montage CBS plays after the national championship game (and the music of which I honestly have cued up before every trip to a tournament game this week), I'd bet you that there is at least one shot of someone crying in each one.
Remember Adam Morrison of Gonzaga rolling around on the floor in Oakland after the Zags got beat in the 2006 NCAA Tournament? Brett Favre after his dad died? Michael Jordan after winning the NBA Finals?
You might think that crying is an emasculating action - that it makes you less of a competitor. I disagree. It tells me that someone's going heart and soul toward victory and like a Daytona 500 entry with a blown engine, is just leaking some fluids. It tells me that someone cares and has pride in their ability.
In tournament time, very few athletes get to write their own endings. And if they need a few tears to blot out the worst of those words, well, go right ahead.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.