February is always hard for sports fans. The excruciating four weeks between the Super Bowl and spring training when Sports Illustrated has nothing to put on its cover but NASCAR can feel like four years. For Yale’s sports addicts, these listless weeks after shopping period and before midterms can be excruciating. So the NCAA Basketball Tournament couldn’t have come soon enough to save us.
As a high school senior, I couldn’t wait to get to college, where I assumed everyone would catch a case of March Madness. I expected students who had never touched a basketball to paint their faces the colors of their favorite schools. I expected frat boys to paint a lot more than just their faces. Of all the surprises I’ve encountered since coming to Yale, none has hit me as hard as the fact that March Madness at Yale isn’t all that mad.
Ever since I entered my dad’s office pool when I was a preschooler — giving new meaning to Dick Vitale’s catchphrase “diaper dandy” — Tourney Time has been my favorite time of year. I remember jumping out of my seat in math class in fifth grade as I watched Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew sink “The Shot” against Ole Miss on a portable television my friend brought to school. In high school, I stole lunch money from freshmen who put all four No. 1 seeds in the Final Four.
Sadly, most Yalies don’t seem to care about the tournament. Last Sunday, the library was filled with students who knew damn well they should have been watching George Mason school UNC. Finding a Yalie to talk with about the tournament is just as hard as finding someone to watch the games with. Mention P.J. Couisnard, the hero of Wichita State’s upset win over Tennessee, and Yalies think you’re talking about a food processor.
I’m not alone in noticing the conspicuous absence of March Madness from the Yale campus. Jen, a hostess at TK’s American Cafe, a popular New Haven sports bar, said Yale students seem “less interested in the games” than most customers.
So why do Yalies stay up all night debating which Gunther song is the best, but they won’t even flinch when Bradley makes the Sweet Sixteen? Perhaps students are so apathetic because Yale’s basketball team is so pathetic. (Sorry, guys. Please don’t beat me up.)
“I don’t think the hype is quite as big here because our own team hasn’t quite been able to make the tournament in recent years,” Ryan Atlas ’07 said. “I can’t even imagine how excited the campus would be to see Yale as a 12-seed hit a buzzer beater to knock Syracuse out of the tournament.”
I can’t imagine it either. But that’s probably because I can’t imagine Yale drawing a 12-seed. (I’m really getting my ass kicked now.)
I know Yale never gets a chance to dance, but neither did my high school, and we still went crazy every time a Cinderella sent a No. 3 seed packing in the first round. When I told Phil Gallagher, a freshman at East Stroudsburg, a Division II university in Pennsylvania, about the absence of hype surrounding March Madness at Yale, he was shocked.
“What?! E.S.U. isn’t even eligible to make the tournament and we still get hype,” Gallagher said. “Yale’s a waste of a D-1 school!”
E.S.U. had a 64-team two-on-two basketball tournament in celebration of March Madness. During the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, hundreds of students piled into a common room to watch the games on large projector screens.
Two years ago, Commons Dining Hall hosted a March Madness-themed day of festivities replete with miniature basketballs and glass bottles of Coke. Commons manager John Swing was unavailable to comment on why Commons did not have a similar event last year or this year. It is indicative of Yale’s indifference to the Madness that the dining halls stopped recognizing Tourney Time and students don’t seem to notice.
Maybe Yalies just don’t care about college basketball as much as more trivial pursuits, like their careers. While students might not get hyped up for March Madness, they sound like Dicky V on speed when it comes to “Internship Madness.”
“You see, most Yalies make their own bracket, but it involves the 64 summer internships they’ve applied for, not college hoops,” Steven Engler ’07 said. “They bet amongst friends and watch as the opportunities are halved every week.”
If you want to spend your time fussing over Goldman Sachs instead of Gonzaga, you need to get your priorities straight. Then again, predicting Winthrop will make it to the Elite Eight is probably a lot more fun when you’re gambling with a banker’s six-figure salary instead of a month’s worth of meal swipes.