By C.M. Tomlin
In Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, a young man named Pip suddenly learns that he is the recipient of a large sum of money from a mysterious benefactor; the inheritence is dependent upon the instructions, however, that Pip move to London and become a gentleman. Later, Pip learns that his benefactor was some escaped convict or something, and Dick Van Dyke sings a song about chimney sweeping and this old guy gets visited by three Christmas ghosts.
The reason I’m reminded of this is that we too, your hosts for this blog, have benefactors as well – benefactors who have required us to travel to ten college basketball games in eleven days. Actually, it’s not really a lot like Great Expectations. Forget about that, though I’m sure you were impressed about how much I knew about Charles Dickens. That's right I am very, very smart.
These said benefactors have laid out a gauntlet for us – a gauntlet of fandom, a quest to get to the core of some of the nation’s most rabid college basketball fans. We had our charge. And now we have our itinerary. Among the many stops on our road to ultimate college basketball enlightenment would be:
-Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Marquette University). Some call Milwaukee “Brew City.” Others call it “The City of Festivals.” Those without access to Wikipedia probably don’t even bother to give it a nickname. We’ll find out what it means to be a Golden Eagle. Not literally, though, because those don’t really exist.
-Cedar Falls, Iowa (Northern Iowa University). We’ll visit the Panthers in their home gym and make our way around Cedar Falls, home of ex-SNL alum Gary Kroeger (1982-85), Entertainment Tonight co-host Mark Steines and screenwriter Nancy Price, who penned the 1991 Julia Roberts film Sleeping With the Enemy. In case you’re wondering, there’s almost no chance we’ll leave uninspired.
-Indianapolis, Indiana (Butler University) We’ll visit Hinkle Fieldhouse, which has been around since 1928 and was home to the Milan Miracle, the 1954 Indiana high school basketball championship on which Hoosiers was loosely based. If time permits, we may also visit some of our favorite locations from John Mellencamp’s 1992 masterpiece Falling From Grace, also shot in Indiana.
-East Lansing, Michigan (Michigan State) Before visiting the Izzone, we’ll stop for a moment to breathe in and process the fact that we’ve finally arrived in Michigan, and marvel at its over 1300 public boating access sites.
-Lawrence, Kansas (University of Kansas) We’ll be on hand for a classic showdown between Oklahoma and #1 Kansas. We’ll also see if it’s true that Lawrence is the 43rd hottest city in America “for business relocation and expansion (Expansion Management Magazine, 2001). And we will be taking that very seriously.
-Chapel Hill, North Carolina (UNC) On the court, we’ll watch a battle between the Florida State ‘Noles and the Tarheels. Off the court, we’ll revel in the Research Triangle’s refreshing brand of earthy jam bands while performing some science experiments.
-Morehead, Kentucky (Morehead State University) An inter-Kentucky matchup sees Big Dance familiars the Murray State Racers rolling in to face the Morehead State Eagles. Then we’re totally going to the Mr. Gatti’s Pizza on campus to play what may be the last remaining Pole Position game in America.
-Ithaca, New York (Cornell University) We’re going straight Ivy League with Princeton at Cornell – and then we’ll stick around to judge a sweater vest competition and talk about Yeats while we open a 2002 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais and consider going down to the Olga Rozanova lecture at MOMA.
-Syracuse, New York (Syracuse University) Villanova takes on the Orangemen and we’ll see how Syracuse stacks up to its sister city of Tampere, Finland. (Spoiler alert: Tampere has more Finnish people than Syracuse. Your move, Syracuse.)
-Charlottesville, Virginia (UVa) Tired and bleary eyed, we’ll do our best to keep our eyes open as Coach K brings his Blue Devils to Charlottesville to take on the Cavs. We’re crashing at your house, Mayor Dave Norris. So get your guest room ready.
The challenge has been laid down. And we accept it, CBS Sports. Prepare to bask in the glory of our victory. Because it will be glorious.
Or perhaps we just have great expectations. But we shall see. Oh, we shall see.