NCAA

Selection Sunday is the beginning of the end of the actual fun

Selection Sunday is the beginning of the end of the actual fun

Selection Sunday is at our throats, and for college basketball fans everywhere it is Christmas wrapped in New Year’s Eve and marinated in Mardi Gras.

And why is that? Easy, silly. Because none of the coaches will announce on Selection Sunday that they are resting four of their starters because they have to go to the Southeast regional.

But, everything after Selection Sunday is a letdown by definition, in the same way that talking about the NFL draft before it happens is better than the draft itself, and picking All-Star teams is better than the All-Star Games in which they appear, and Hall of Fame ballot arguments are better than Hall of Fame voting results.

It’s because reality is never good as anticipation, let alone the alternate realities people make up to satisfy themselves. Once the bracket is announced, it stops being the user’s world and becomes part of Corporate World. And these days, nobody approves of the judgments of others.

Such is the new way of thinking about sports that we have challenged the speed of time to satisfy our need to talk about the future in anticipation of being let down by it. We love to construct and de-construct realities about who should be a three-seed and who should end up in the West Regional, and once the reveal comes we can no longer make up our own universes. We are stuck with complaining for a day about the people who did fill the brackets because our versions are no longer worth contemplating.

That doesn’t prevent us from talking about “snubs” and other ill-defined injustices because, despite the fact that there is no such thing as an actual “snub,” we find the need to savage the fact of selection by its variance from what we would do if allowed the great honor of days-long sequestration with people we would never consent to drink with otherwise.

You know – as in, “What do you mean, UCLA’s a 3 in the East? Why isn’t Northwestern a 5 when so many media people graduated from Northwestern and therefore clog our brains with open cheering that they would not otherwise tolerate? Why do you personally hate mid-major schools, and whose pay are you in, actually?”

We call it “feeding the beast,” when what it actually is, is making arguments. And what we make argument with is the end of the arguments.

Indeed, the real problem with Selection Sunday, once you’ve disposed with the annual process story, “68 Reasons Why The Committee Is Stupider Than You,” is that the cycle is the same every year.

First is the months-long Jockeying For Committee’s Eye story. Then comes Bracketology, Joe Lunardi’s pernicious invention for the fetishizing of the bracket process. Then comes Selection Sunday, then comes The Snubs, then comes The Embarrassing Interview With The Barely Articulate Committee Chair, then comes The Incessant Breakdown.

And then, in a massive letdown, come The Results. Two, then two more, then 16, 16 more, then eight and eight. That’s 52 games in what most folks agree is the best weekend of the tournament, because that’s when the chance of chaos is greatest.

And the chaos is what we’re in it for, unless we are burdened with having a favorite team. Game after game, weird finish after absurd development, piled atop each other in a mad tapestry that allows us to believe that everyone can get something out the event.

Then come The Sweet Sixteen, and the return to big-name form that almost always serves as a letdown.

You see, while the myth of the bracket is that there is a path to glory for everyone, the truth of the bracket is that there are built-in benefits for the usual names. Kinder seedings, gentler matchups, shorter travel, more beneficent TV times, etc. – all the things that make the money grow.

That’s why Selection Sunday marks not the beginning of the tournament but the beginning of the end of the actual fun. The NCAA Tournament may be about basketball for the basketball wonks, but for the far greater majority of fans we can call “casuals,” the tournament is about your personal bracket, followed by the schools you never heard of. The rest of it is noise, with the daily interviews with The Famous Coach first among equals.

The weeks before Selection Sunday are about the comforting hilarities of What Could Be, only to be turned into the rigidity of What Is, and ultimately into What You’ve Already Seen And Pretty Damned Recently (three first-time champions have been crowned in the last 27 years), with style points given or taken away for the excitement of the final. For instance, last year’s final with Villanova and North Carolina was so good that it made you forget that the rest of the tournament was pretty ordinary stuff.

In short, Selection Sunday is the beginning of dreams for a few underdog schools, and the end of dreams for everyone else. Eventually, the games must be played, structure must be applied, and structure is never as much fun as what we pretend could be.

Ex-Cal football player Eric Stevens fighting for ALS cure after diagnosis

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AP

Ex-Cal football player Eric Stevens fighting for ALS cure after diagnosis

Former Cal Bears fullback Eric Stevens now is a Los Angeles City firefighter. He knows what it's like to put others' lives ahead of his own. 

Now, his family hopes those will return the favor.

Stevens was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 29, soon after getting married to the woman of his dreams.

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Let’s help Eric #axeALS!!!! #TeamStevensNation

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"The diagnosis and subsequent education they received about the horrific disease was the worst news one could ever imagine," a Facebook post dedicated to "Team Stevens Nation," described.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a debilitating and incurable disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. With a life expectancy between two and five years, paralysis comes much quicker. And there is much unknown about it. 

While there are many treatments going through clinical trials that are showing promise, there is still a 50 percent chance those could receive a placebo over the actual treatment.

"There is NO reason why a person with a terminal diagnosis should receive placebo over the actual treatment," the Facebook page explains. "Another downside to these clinical trials is they are a year-long process, and time is the one thing ALS patients don't have. Every single day without treatment is a day lost."

Those can donate to and share the family's GoFundMe page here

Stevens, now 30, totaled 14 carries for 53 yards, and 13 catches for 82 yards and one touchdown in his career at Cal that spanned from 2008-2012. But despite playing sparingly, he was voted team captain.

He was signed by the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2013, but never played a snap in the NFL.

[RELATED: A's Piscotty accepts prestigious Hutch Award]

"Given his strong determination and success in anything he puts his mind to, Eric has chosen to fight and advocate for getting drugs and treatments available to patients NOW," the Facebook group wrote. "Eric's goal with the help of his family and friends is to raise awareness for ALS and act now toward getting treatments available."

Gavin Newsom signs 'Fair Pay to Play' act with LeBron James on 'The Shop'

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USATSI

Gavin Newsom signs 'Fair Pay to Play' act with LeBron James on 'The Shop'

Monday was a monumental day in college athletics.

California Governor Gavin Newsom went on HBO and Uninterrupted's "The Shop" to formally sign California's "Fair Pay to Play" act alongside Lakers star LeBron James.

The law will allow college athletes in the state of California to profit off the use of their name, image and likeness, and will make it illegal for universities to revoke a student's scholarship for accepting money. The bill will not pay athletes to play, but it will allow them to sign agents and seek out business deals.

"[Signing the bill] is going to initiate dozens of other states to introduce similar legislation," Newsom said on "The Shop" prior to signing the bill. "And it’s going to change college sports for the better by having now the interests, finally, of the athletes, on par with the interests of the institutions. Now we’re rebalancing that power arrangement."

The bill will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Warriors forward Draymond Green has been a vocal proponent of the bill, and he gave Newsom props after the signing.

Newsom's bill has faced blowback from both California schools and the NCAA, as it would make it impossible for those schools to follow the NCAA's amateurism rules. The NCAA has called the bill unconstitutional and will challenge it in court.

The NCAA responded with a statement.

The Pac-12 also issued a statement. 

[RELATED: Draymond supports California bill for NCAA athletes]

The signing of the bill is expected to cause an avalanche of states to pass similar legislation and fundamentally change how amateurism and college athletics are viewed.

Well done, Gov. Newsom.