"By tomorrow night at 6, Canada will have a new national university basketball champion. A few people will know about it. Fewer still will watch it on TV. No real money will have been wagered on the games.The author, Scott Radley, is one of Ontario's best sports columnists (he's got a shelf full of ONAs, Ontario Newspaper Awards, to prove it) and it's tough contesting any of his points. You sound hopelessly parochial if you decry everything associated with the NCAA Tournament (the shamateurism, people betting the grocery money on a sport where a team's chances can rise and fall based on whether the power forward had an argument with his girlfriend, the couch-burnings).
"A big deal? For those in it, sure. For everyone else, not so much.
"Meanwhile, by tomorrow night at 6, the annual orgy of basketball and betting south of the border will just be getting fired up. CBS will go on air and with remotes set up at schools from coast to coast, outline the brackets that'll lead to the NCAA championship three weeks from now. Bets will start flying. Office pools will fill up. Entire slates of prime-time broadcast space will be cleared to make way for it."
Let's just accept that in the States, everything is always going to be convenient for the college basketball fan. Can we not just accept that up here university basketball is a niche sport, while its U.S. counterpart is geared to the casual fan? I can't name one starter for North Carolina other than Tyler Hansborough, but I'll watch the NCAA Tournament.
The best analogy is that it's the difference between eating at some fast-food place and knowing some little out-of-the way place. In Canada, being a devotee of university basketball takes effort, maybe too much effort sometimes. It's kind of like the How I Met Your Mother episode where Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel's character) recounts how he's spent eight years trying to find the great little hamburger place he found when he got lost on one of his first nights in New York City. Sure, you can get a cheeseburger pretty much anywhere and slick marketers will provide the attitude and the atmosphere, but finding that place was worthwhile.
There's a lot that has to be done at the upper echelons of the CIS to get on the national media's radar and realizing its potential. But the CIS vs. NCAA comparisons here are played out, with all due respect to Mr. Radley.