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Vol. 50, No. 1 • November 2012 • .pdf version
Folks at NCAA must understand: Seeing is believing
By DANA O'NEIL / espn.com
I have watched basketball games from the corners, behind fans, through chronically waving pom pons and with a pep band directing its entire horn section at my eardrum.
I get that our seats aren't the priority to most folks. We don't pay the money. We don't cheer. We just sit there and type, or now, tweet.
And so when NCAA staffers invited a few of us to discuss exactly what to do with us at future NCAA Tournaments, I could see where they were coming from.
I only wish someone could see where we are coming from, quite literally.
More than great wireless (though please don't take that away), salty snacks and quick stats, we need to see the game to tell the game.
This isn't about us liking our cushy courtside seats – though, OK, we like our cushy courtside seats. This is about doing this particular job right and doing it well.
The beauty of basketball is in its intimacy – fewer players, no helmets to mask grimaces and emotions and no barriers between the playing surface and the public. It's right there, right in front of you, exposed for the world to see and watch.
It makes for a better product and it makes for better storytelling. It is one thing to be able to say where Ali Farokhmanesh sunk his ballsy 3-pointer to beat Kansas. It is another to see his face and sense his emotion after draining that incredible winner.
As the NCAA's unofficial storytellers, we help bring that intimacy to life. The television can capture only so much; we can fill in the blanks, the after stories of the shining moments, if you will.
I, like plenty of you, have more than my fair share of time climbing into the stands to find the parent or sibling of a star player, taking the time and making the effort to make a simple story a better one. It's hard to do those interviews if you can't find the parent or sibling and if you can't physically get to them.
Despite the big business shifts in college athletics, college basketball remains an entirely different animal than its professional peer.
I have always told people that the real beauty of college basketball is the setting. It's the pep band (even when it's punctured my eardrum); it's the students (even when the Cameron Crazies leave white chest paint residue on my black shirt); it's the cheerleaders (even when their pom pons incessantly wave in front of my face) and it's the coaches and players, whose raw emotions are so much more real because the game is about something much bigger than a paycheck.
Three years ago, Eric Devendorf's sneakers landed approximately three feet from my laptop after the Syracuse player thought his team had beaten Connecticut in regulation in the Big East Tournament on his buzzerbeater.
He was wrong, but he made my story anyway because I saw it all – his face, the fans' response to him and then the reaction after the officials decided that nope, we'd go to overtime.
Or, as it turned out, six.
Could I have written a six-overtime story without all of that? Sure. Would it have been as good? Would people who weren't in the Garden or who fell asleep going to know all of that? Maybe.
More than likely not.
Of course, beyond all of that sort of ethereal viewing is the reality – it's hard to see if a charge should have been a block if you can't see the court; it's difficult to determine whether a ball is in bounds or out if you can't see the court; it's impossible to know who set the screen to spring Gordon Hayward if you can't see the court.
Seeing, as they say, is believing.
Hopefully some folks in Indianapolis see that and believe it.
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