How I loved you, Long Beach State. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
I really hope you're not reading this. That is unless you're outside, on a mobile device, enjoying the record breaking Midwest temperatures. Jackson, Michigan hit 80 degrees today, something the (disputed) birthplace of the Republican Party had never done this time of year. It's March, and although I believe that talking about the weather is typically small talk to waste the time, the wonderful weather plays a nice role in mentioning that March 15, 2012 might literally have been the greatest day ever.
It's plaudits like the aforementioned overstatement that make the NCAA Tourney so amazing. A random, spectacularly warm Thursday turns into a bonding experience for millions of random strangers. Schools like Wichita State and UNC Asheville capture the nation's attention, if only for a moment. And then there's a school called Long Beach State University.
Let me tell you about Long Beach State University. Before this year, I've had just one thought about LBSU. Snoop Dogg repped the City of Long Beach with that classic LBC black hoodie. The Beach also appears in REGULATOOOOOOOORRRRS MOUNT UP with Nate Dogg (all these Dogg's), who states that he's in the LBC, on a mission trying to find Mr. Warren G. So this year, somehow, I caught The Beach a few times on TV, playing games here and there. And they looked tough and quick and I naturally love any school whose jersey's say, very simply, "The Beach". So I was like, Long Beach, you and me, we're cool.
But then I entered into a very simple bracket, the same bracket I've been throwing my money at since I was 12 years old. And it's a very simple premise. You get to pick five (5) teams. Their seeds have to equal twenty eight (28). Each win your teams get is one point. $20 to enter. 50 competitors. $750 for winning, $250 for second place. Good luck.
You see where this is going right? Many people just pick (1), (1), (1), (12), (13)...and pray for a top heavy tourney. Well after last year's debacle of a Tourney, one where the top seeds were slowly tossed out in favor of (5) seeds and the like, I decided to mix it up a bit. My entry, below:
(8) Kansas State
(12) Long Beach State
This is where my love affair with the LBC began. I picked Mizzou because I live in Lansing and 80% of the people in the pool will pick Michigan State...So if I wanted to separate myself a bit in case State lost. I love Vandy and I think 'Cuse is struggling mightily - for this same reason, I took KSU.
So what might push me over the edge in this big money pool? Long Beach. And for two hours, you could find me fist pumping in a suit, throwing my jacket across the bar, high-fiving anyone in my way. Is it logical? Not really. Will I win this pool, Long Beach Cinderella run or not? Who knows. Is winning $750 that important to my life? Probably not.
But for two hours, I have never loved a team like I loved Long Beach State. The Dirtbags. And just like that, they were done. A back and forth dive-on-the-floor kind of game gave way to a late New Mexico win. Shit.
So what does this say about our culture? Lots of things. Living in an increasingly insular American culture, we search for any kind of connection and community that we can find. Living in a society where the complainers get the most press, we rejoice when surrounded by people with positive energy. Living in a competitive culture, we want to outdo others, show that our ideas, our ingenuity is superior. I enjoy living in a competitive culture; it stops people from stagnating.
Anyway you look at it, March 15, 2012 was a magical time to be alive, even if all your upsets didn't go as planned. So crack open a cold whatever and let's toast to the great American tradition of the NCAA Tourney.