Football, baseball, hockey, boxing, golf, Olympics – if it was on
television, I watched it and logged all the action so that highlights
could be selected, found and edited for the local sports news broadcast.
However, my natural immersion in the NBA season has over the years nudged out interest in most other sports. Of all the sports I used to watch but no longer find or make the time to follow (other than the Cubs, who I do still try to follow, but watch very few actual games), I miss college basketball the most.
I used to run our tournament pool in the sports department. I had brackets of all manner of stages and predictions posted on my wall like a detective solving a crime. Okay, so I never came close to winning the thing, but it was a great time.
Every year I vow to actually know who’s in the polls, which teams are on the bubble and know at least enough to have no surprises when the seedings for the tournament are announced.
Every year I’m surprised when I read that this team or that team is playing for a conference championship. And this morning, I was positively confounded to discover that Drake would be playing Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference’s title game in St. Louis. While I’m not an alumnus of ISU, I did attend school there my freshman year.
Al McCoy, an alum of Drake himself, and I had talked earlier in the season, when his Bulldog’s lost to my brother’s Bradley Braves, the only other time I’d paid attention to college hoops this season. So, when I got to the arena this morning for the Suns-Spurs game, I sought out the Voice of the Suns to get his take on the game.
Ironically, I found him in the Al McCoy Media Center, eating lunch with fellow Suns’ broadcaster Gary Bender. When I told him I had a connection to his team’s opponent, he told me that Illinois State’s Jim Durham was doing the play-by-play on the Suns’ game for ESPN Radio and was in the building, as well.
Durham, who I listened to for years as the Bulls’ announcer with Johnny “Red” Kerr, approached as if on cue and asked if the game was on television. Indeed it was and I stood with McCoy and Durham and watched as Drake went on an early run to take a 14-9 lead.
The two broadcasting legends discussed making a whopping five dollar bet on the contest, but I’m not sure if the deal was ever finalized.
Bender was hedging bets on which one of them would mention the game on the air during their Suns’ game broadcast.
“I’m sure it will be mentioned if the right team wins,” Bender said.
“Yes, it will,” chimed in Durham. They all laughed, but McCoy had the last laugh, as Drake pounded Illinois State to advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1971.
But more importantly, I now know a team that has made it to March Madness. Bring on Selection Sunday, whenever that is.