I'm watching Cal take on Maryland in the first round of the men's NCAA tournament, and thinking about the start of the MLS season ... San Jose opens their schedule on Saturday night. The tournament is rightfully known as one of the great sporting events ... the structure ensures plenty of drama, the enthusiasm of the players and fans is contagious, and let's not forget all the gambling that goes on. But, as I'm reminded every time I watch college basketball, the actual level of play is erratic. The best basketball on the planet is played in the NBA. Many of these college players will end up in the pros, but even they are not yet at the peak of their abilities. It doesn't matter, because the tournament supplies its own thrills. More importantly, it doesn't matter if you have someone to root for, whether via gambling or, in my case, because of my life-long attachment to Cal sports (as I often note, I am old enough to remember when Cal won the NCAA tourney, and yes, I did sleep under a blue blanket with a gold C and a picture of Oski the Bear when I was a kid). Ultimately, I'd rather watch a largely meaningless Cal game in December than a hot matchup between the Lakers and Celtics in March, because I care about Cal. If I ranked spectator sports by the amount of enjoyment they bring me (as opposed to ranking them simply by the skills of the participants), I'd put games featuring my favorite teams at the top, followed by other criteria based on the quality of play.
And yes, this means that I'll be at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday night, and I'll be more engrossed watching the Quakes take on New England than I was watching Inter Milan against AC Milan. The Quakes' best player, Darren Huckerby, wouldn't make the roster of either Milan squad, but I won't care when my favorite player hauls ass down the left wing for San Jose ... at that moment, in my eyes, Darren Huckerby and his teammates will be the players I want to watch.