SportsMonday Column: These weeks don't come around often
Whatever you do, don’t waste this week.
For the next three-plus days, Ann Arbor will be one of 16 cities across the United States that gets to experience the singular energy that accompanies a trip to the Sweet 16.
At 7:09 p.m. Thursday, the Michigan men’s basketball team will tip off in Kansas City, Mo., against Oregon. Perhaps some of you will venture to join them. Others will gather in bars, lounges and dorm rooms across campus to hold their collective breath for two hours and watch one of the great spectacles in sports.
But in many ways, the real prize of advancing to the Sweet 16 will come before then.
Three trips in the last five years may have spoiled some Michigan fans enough into thinking these just happen. But the fact of the matter is, regardless of the outcome Thursday night, the Wolverines have given their fans a commodity that is hard to come by and easy to lose: hope.
Consider Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and most of Thursday your time to dream. There will still be class and homework and plenty other things that are normally worth your attention. But not this week. This is a week to make the plans you’ll tell your future children about. It’s a week to watch “Survive and Advance,” or “Hoosiers,” or even “Cinderella” — if that’s not too on the nose.
The truth is, it doesn’t much matter whether you followed basketball this season. There are so few opportunities to be in college when your school makes it this far that, when it does, you owe it to yourselves to make the most of it.
Spend your Monday basking in the feeling you had Sunday around 2:15. Take at least one class off and take a walk down to South Campus — see if the air feels just a little bit different.
On Tuesday you’ll want to read up. Oregon’s a damn good team and, come tip-off Thursday, you won’t want to be double-checking who the Ducks’ best player is (his name is Dillon Brooks) or, worse, who Michigan’s starters are. Talk to a friend — any friend — about the game. Sports mean bonding, and there are few better times to catch the fever.
Drink on Wednesday so you can take in Thursday’s tension without feeling the pull of Skeeps. It’s unorthodox, but trust me: It’ll pay off.
Thursday evening, you’ll want to gather with your closest friends for game time. It doesn’t necessarily matter where — some prefer to be out with the largest possible group, others prefer to watch in the comfort of a house — but the shared joy of a big shot is unlike nearly anything else you’ll ever experience.
I know this sounds cliché coming from a sports writer who you may or may not suspect is wistful for his days as a fan. And you’re sort of right — the day I was accepted to Michigan, Trey Burke hit “the shot” against Kansas in the Sweet 16. It was a crazy moment, and I’d love nothing more than for everyone to have a similar experience. This is the weekend when that can happen.
But there’s also something about the NCAA Tournament that goes beyond visceral, personal memories.
The energy on campus — both in class and on the Diag — cannot be replicated. The stage will rarely be bigger; the lights will rarely be brighter. The world will be talking about what’s happening in Ann Arbor, and, if you’re lucky, you may even get a sunny day.
Come tip-off Thursday, you owe it to yourselves to have enjoyed that feeling as long as possible.
It could be gone by Friday morning.
Max Bultman can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @m_bultman. Please @ him.