At this time each year even the casual sports fan is reminded just how grand the spectacle of college athletics has become south of the border. Heroes are made on the hard court and for at least one year, that glory will last entrenched within March Madness lore.
Buzzer-beating shots, upsets and breakout stars once again make a contribution to the nightly highlight reel, assembling countless bandwagon followings along the way. At work Canadians fill out brackets to, ever so slightly, involve themselves in all of the excitement.
Undoubtedly, someone will pick a dark horse and until the curtains close on that Cinderella story, for a moment “that guy” can play the role of all-foreseeing sports guru. There is something about this madness for everyone. It is all too easy for one to get caught up in the frenzy of sold out stadiums and exhaustingly in-depth television coverage. The Marvel at such wonders, for me, leaves me wanting more from Canadian university sport.
Too often, it seems that people forget about the true underdog spirit. While so readily throwing support behind a given team within the NCAA tournament, Canadian fans overlook the sports right here on home soil.
Most remain complacent with the idea that the CIS will never match up and certainly with an attitude like that it remains impossible. It is foolish to compare the two, for starters, but aiming for the top never hurt anyone.
The CIS will never size-up to the hundreds of teams and billions of dollars that comprise the NCAA – our schools are simply fewer and smaller in size.
We would be hard-pressed, here at McMaster, to fit 18,000 people into Burridge Gymnasium. With a capacity of 2,200, it would be simply impossible. So instead of looking at that as a shortcoming, Canadian sports fans should focus on what is possible.
Smaller venues should make for easy sellouts. Shorter seasons promote intense competition and less money-involved means more sport.
With even a fraction of the seemingly effortless zest that we yearn for March Madness, major improvements could be made to how we view campus sports here in the north.
After all, paying attention to CIS sports is far from a chore nowadays, especially since larger events have been receiving national television coverage on a steady increase over the past few years.
This past football season more people than ever paid attention to the CIS, evident through sold out games, storybook rivalries and a record setting 48th edition of the Vanier Cup.
Later in the year, The Score television network provided coverage of the CIS men’s basketball tournament in Ottawa, and although the product was decibels away from madness – there was marked improvement from years past. Even my CIS-apathetic roommates found themselves glued to the television for both football and basketball.
Perhaps that is too much to ask, but if given a chance, CIS sports can be an infectious pastime.
Admittedly, before coming to Mac or working at the Silhouette, CIS sports were situated in obscurity for me. Not long after spending Saturday afternoons at Ron Joyce, however, I found myself thinking that the Canadian brand of collegiate athletics was the best-kept secret in sports.
I found myself able to follow these sports with the passion of a true fan. I could proudly say that I was rooting for “my team” without having to pledge some manufactured allegiance to the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams for a few weeks.
Forget what you know; CIS sports are right in front of you and it’s surprising how easy it can be to get caught up in all the action. It was a hell of a year in Marauder sports and the future seems to be getting even brighter. Much like March Madness, it will be worth being a part of.