Weekend's games were fun

Published 11:24 am Wednesday, March 24, 2004

By Staff
Alabamians, whether they're hardcore basketball fans or not, got a double dose of March Madness this weekend when first the University of Alabama and then UAB rallied in their respective NCAA tourney contests to defeat strong, favored opponents.
And we all got a great example of just how crazy it is to try and predict with any authority the outcome of a sporting event, especially one hinging as much on participants' emotions as those taking place on hardwood courts across the country right now.
Alabama took down Stanford, one of the nation's top-ranked schools, in a game very few gave them more than an outside shot at winning. Then UAB pulled an even bigger upset, defeating storied Kentucky, one of college basketball's most respected and successful programs.
Stanford finished the year ranked number one in the country. Kentucky was the tournament's top-seeded team. Alabama and UAB? They were also-rans going in, teams that had done well just to make their way into the tournament, who should've been happy to still be playing basketball this time of year. Funny how things work out.
I don't follow basketball closely, but I got a chance to see both Alabama and UAB play over the weekend. Both games served as fun reminders of the excitement and unpredictability that make watching sports so enjoyable.
And these games, with their upset endings, were especially enjoyable for many, even if they had no direct rooting interest, for reasons other than the fast-paced action. They were made doubly fun because the underdogs came out on top, as happens every so often, again proving practitioners of the seedy sports-betting industry that underlies so many of our country's athletic contests dead wrong.
Not the regular people out there who squeeze a little extra fun from the tournament by filling out their own brackets. Or even the odd person who might bet dinner or something equally harmless with a friend on the outcome of a contest they will both be watching. These sorts of things go hand in hand with watching and enjoying the games.
The people many, myself included, like seeing take a bath on contests like these are those who make their living casting a shadow of doubt over the games, the professional oddsmakers and other assorted other characters who set point spreads, chatter endlessly about inside dope and generally drag sports into the gutter under the weight of their cynical numbers-mongering.
They've already got Alabama and UAB set as underdogs again, predicting they won't win another game this tournament.
I came into March Madness without a favorite, or even an overriding interest in how most of the contests played out. But that all changed over the weekend, when 'Bama and UAB struck a blow for the good in sports, and at least side-swiped a lot of the bad.