The League

Liz Clarke
Staff Writer

Liz Clarke

Washington Post Sports Reporter

March by a nose


This is a brutally difficult question, with compelling arguments to be made for both the NFL's final month and March Madness. But after lots of stewing, I come down on the side of college basketball.

First, a tip of the hat to the NFL. It's the most well run league in sports, built around a 16-game regular season that leaves fans wanting more. And it's capped by a playoff system that almost without exception crowns the best.

Unworthy NFL teams don't make the playoffs. Football is too harsh, too demanding. It's ruthlessly efficient in winnowing out the weak or flawed. And the upshot for fans is that nearly every NFL playoff game is a fabulous match-up.

That said, if you believe that what makes sports so compelling is the uncertainty of the outcome, you have to go with March Madness. To me, March Madness is more entertaining than the NFL's stretch run precisely because of its capriciousness.

With spots reserved for champions of the smallest Division I conferences, the 65-team field guarantees underdogs in the mix. That's the heart and the genius of March Madness. It's the great equalizer in sports, pitting small-college teams composed of athletes with no illusion of ever playing pro ball against powerhouses dominated by NBA lottery picks.

The image of NCAA Cinderella teams has become a hackneyed cliché. But who can't appreciate what Davidson achieved in 2008? Or George Mason in 2006, toppling third-seeded North Carolina and No. 1 seed Connecticut en route to its improbable Final Four?

Pick any year, and March Madness delivers a storyline about at least one team that doesn't belong but -- through teamwork, effort and, sometimes, plain luck -- surpasses its potential and wildest dreams.

That's great stuff.

By Liz Clarke  |  December 9, 2009; 9:58 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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