As usual, sitting in the stands of the Wachovia Center for any sporting event can provide a far different experience than those typically circulated by the mainstream media. With Philly's portion of the bracket officially in the books, let's give out our own version of brotherly love... in the form of some little-known awards...
To any non-Chattanooga-based basketball program that played in Philadelphia and didn't lose its opening round game to Connecticut (or any team) by 56 points. (Yeah, I was just kidding before.) Great job, guys. You had us on the edge of our seats by not losing by eight touchdowns. Thanks. Bonus points here to American, which subsequently scared the crap out of the hometown favorites, and which also has a mascot that resembles the one got in a fight at the end of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
To UCLA's lovable mascot, Joe Bruin, whose subtle jab at the Villanova cheerleading squad was the Bruins' only real highlight during Saturday's 20-point loss. Upon spotting the Nova cheerleaders on the floor and watching them perform their routine at intermission, Joe offered his acknowledgement by pointing in their direction, turning to the crowd, and covering his eyes in disgust. Ouch. Let's just say that next year's Nova squad needs a monster recruiting class to come anywhere close to the murderers' row at UCLA. And on that note, let's also say that the UCLA squad's dance to the Pussycat Dolls at halftime wasn't sponsored by nearby Delilah's Den, but it very well could've been.
Speaking of which...
To the lone wolf seated in Section 105 at the Wachovia Center, who came fully equipped with hunting binoculars, which he only used during intermissions to scope out the arena's cheerleader situation. Seemed normal. This, in conjunction with the fact that he removed his shoes -- as if lounging on a recliner -- for the afternoon slate of action, easily qualified him as the creepiest guy in attendance. Naturally, he was seated directly to my right. Moving on.
To VCU's band director, who took his role to new heights by carrying on as if he'd been on a 24-hour, IV drip of 5-Hour Energy. At one point, he may have even been glowing like a character from Dragonball Z. However you slice it, this man was a ball of pure excitement for two straight hours, and probably collapsed under the pressure of his own weight after the game. Among his various wardrobe selections were a custom-made VCU jersey (reading "Total Package" on the back), a flamboyant pimp jacket (presumably stolen from Cosmo Kramer), and yes, your classic "wifebeater" t-shirt, which became the uniform of choice after the previous items became too restrictive for his passionate gyrations.
To the collective groan that emanated from the Wachovia Center, about 90-seconds into the BYU-Texas A&M game, from those who picked the Cougars and realized that BYU's eye-popping offensive efficiency statistics failed to mention a starting lineup of five white guys with average athleticism. Sigh. In person, BYU looked completely overwhelmed by an A&M team that seemed quicker, stronger, and capable of jumping out of the gym. The moment at which the crowd, in unison, discovered this revelation was borderline eerie.
To injured Connecticut star Jerome Dyson, whose brown suit and its strange gold insignia was the subject of much curiosity throughout the arena. Among the questions overheard in the stands: "What is the function of that gold emblem?", "Why is he wearing that?" and most importantly, "Where the hell do you buy something like that?!?" To be honest, the answer to all three is a bewildered shrug. It didn't seem to faze the Connecticut cheering section as A.J. Price's mom went bonkers; however, for the rest of us, it was almost as intriguing as the game itself. Perhaps Dyson has a hidden switch by his breast pocket which turns his jacket into a bright, flashing light sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings? Just a thought.
To the NCAA, for playing the role of Debbie Downer by dealing Philly a busted straight in terms of competitive basketball games, and then sticking to its guns, denying the masses the only thing that could've made the experience truly enjoyable: alcohol. No, when you're ordering tickets several months in advance, beggars can't be choosers; however, the NCAA could've shown a little compassion to a crowd that saw an average victory margin of nearly 22 points over a six game slate between Thursday and Saturday. Would that have been too much to ask? Couldn't some kind of "mercy" rule be established for emergency situations like this? And wouldn't this be yet another way to stimulate the economy? Get it done.
Ty Hildenbrandt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his podcast, The Solid Verbal, which he co-hosts with SI.com's Dan Rubenstein.