Sports and the Rites of Spring

Spring training in baseball is upon us — with the regular season set to begin on April 1, three days later than it has started in recent years, because of the COVID-19 pandemic (who needs baseball in March anyway?).

And unlike last year, the NCAA basketball tournament began on Friday, with all of its games to be played in Indianapolis — and while the league year in the NFL commenced on Wednesday, the scouting combine, also normally held in the Checkered Flag City, was canceled, leaving teams in general, and teams looking for wide receivers in particular, flying blind as to what players to select (the 40-yard dash, normally the highlight of the combine, overshadowing everything else).

Meanwhile, it's business as usual in the NBA and NHL — almost: the regular-season schedule has been shortened by 10 games in the former and 26 games in the latter, in both cases 20 games being played per month except in the last month of the season (did the two leagues coordinate on this?).

The fact that all of the NCAA tournament games are to be held at the same site does beg the question as to why the teams are not being re-seeded after each round. For example, by all right, 15th-seeded Oral Roberts from the West region should be playing Baylor, the region's top seed, after upsetting second-seeded Ohio State in the first round. Instead, the Golden Eagles will be playing 10th-seeded Virginia Tech in the second round.

That is hardly fair — except of course to Indianapolis, which gets the entire NCAA tournament in exchange for losing the NFL combine.

In "normal" years, after the first two rounds, four teams from each region play at the same site in the Sweet 16, and they can always be re-seeded then so that the highest surviving second-round survivor plays the lowest-seeded second-round survivor, and the second-highest second-round survivor plays the third-highest second-round survivor. But the NCAA doesn't even do that. Guess they think that all this Mickey Mouse "bracketology" is more important than good old-fashioned fairness — and this would not increase the number of days that it takes to play the tournament. We get it that this is March Madness — not May Madness.

On a side note, the new year once officially came at this time of year: March 25 was originally New Year's Day because it is exactly nine months before Christmas; for example, the day after March 24, 1500 was March 25, 1501. Not until September of 1752 was this changed, at least in the United Kingdom and its colonies, concomitant with the empire adopting the Gregorian calendar (which also entailed no longer considering years ending in "00" to be leap years unless they are divisible by 400, as 2000 was) — the day after September 2, 1752 also became September 14, 1752 — prompting opponents of the change to chant "Give Us Back Our 11 Days" (the last country to make the change was Saudi Arabia — in 2016, just in case you ever do get on the post-Alex Trebek Jeopardy or some similar game show).

Hopefully, by this time next year, that which remains of the disruption that COVID-19 has caused, both in the sports world and out of it, will have been vaccinated out of existence.

So at the risk of sounding goofy, happy New Year.

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