My freshman year at college I lived in a dorm, next to a guy on the basketball team. His last name was Carrington. He was funny. He kept bragging to everyone about how good he was, how the Celtics were going to give him a tryout, but when we went to the college games, he didn't even start. He came off the bench.

That was OK. We cheered for him anyhow. Mine was a small college, and our gym was tiny enough that Carrington could hear us yelling if we waited for the right moment. During the game, one of our gang would get hot dogs or Milk Duds from the concession table, where the money was still collected in cigar boxes.

And after the game, we'd clomp down through the bleachers, holding our coats, and go stand by the locker-room door until Carrington came out and we could tease him about his playing time.

I had a great sense of school pride during those games, a real feeling of my team and my gym and my guys and my place. The squad wasn't great, but most years we won more than we lost. Besides, it was our gym. When we went to the games, we saw familiar student faces. We said, "hi," waved. We made note of the pretty girls, whom we knew by name, even if we were too shy to talk to them.

Back then, the basketball games were part of college life, not something that dwarfed it. You asked your friends that afternoon, "Hey, you wanna go to the game tonight?" and a few hours later you showed your student pass at the door, and you went in.

Today, I will watch another college basketball game. It will be part of the NCAA tournament, March Madness 65 teams in a multibillion-dollar annual industry.

The game will not be played on the home team's campus, but in an arena more than 1,000 miles away. It will be beamed across the world via satellite. The players will be inaccessible to the public from the moment they wake up in their security-guarded hotel rooms to the moment the private bus whisks them to airport for a flight home.

I will record the game, dutifully, because that is my job. But forgive me if I don't share the same wild excitement that some screaming TV broadcaster tries to inject.


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