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Column: IU basketball's emotional success taken out on TV


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The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is upon us and I find myself in unfamiliar territory. I care again.

My revived interest can be traced to the resurgence of the Indiana University Hoosiers. In a few short seasons, coach Tom Crean and his players have taken a program from about as low as low can be … we’re talking IU football low … back to national prominence.

Crean and his crew won the Big Ten season championship for the first time in 20 years and have a legitimate chance to win the NCAA tournament. Oops, am I allowed to say NCAA tournament without getting sued for trademark infringement?

Once again, Indiana is a team to be feared on the basketball court, and that’s a good thing for IU fans. But I’m a bit surprised that I care so much about how the team fares.

When it comes to spectator sports, I enjoy watching college basketball, college and pro football, auto racing, baseball and even golf.

But I am a casual fan. While I enjoy rooting for the Colts and the Hoosiers, I can’t imagine loving any sports team enough to wear some ridiculous outfit to games or to sit in the grandstands in sub-freezing temperatures with my bare torso painted in team colors.

As a nation, I believe, we often place too much importance on sports. We forget that despite the huge sums of money involved, sports are really nothing more than games.

I am an IU graduate, but I’ve been a fan of Hoosier basketball since the days of Branch McCracken and the Van Arsdale brothers, nearly a decade before I ever set foot on campus.

Still, whether or not my team wins a big game or the national championship really has no bearing on my health or happiness.

So why do I act as if it does?

For the past few years IU basketball has been disappointing. Say what you want about IU football, but at least it seldom disappoints. We expect the football team to lose and usually it meets our expectations.

But now the Hoosier hoopsters are back and I find myself getting excited about the team and caring whether they win or not.

Suddenly I am again hollering at the TV set, scolding a player for missing a shot he never should have taken in the first place. This is usually followed immediately by my screaming at Tom Crean to “GET THAT GUY OUT OF THERE!”

The coach and the team can’t hear me, but my wife can.

“Maybe you shouldn’t watch this if it’s going to upset you so much,” she says.

“That’s OK,” I reply, “I don’t really care if they — ‘WHAT? NO WAY THAT WAS A CHARGE! C’MON REF, PAY ATTENTION!’ — win or lose.”

OK, so maybe I do care a little bit too much. But I am fully aware that winning basketball games is not the purpose of IU, or any other college or university. It’s to turn out graduates who will go on to accomplish great things.

While a select few will find fame and fortune as professional athletes, many more will start successful businesses, make important scientific discoveries or write great books.

I like to think that by rooting for the IU basketball team, I am also rooting for the chemistry department, the music school and my old stomping grounds, the political science department. I’m sure many Purdue, Butler and Notre Dame fans feel the same.

By pulling for our favorite sports teams we’re also rooting for our alma mater, our city or our state.

Isn’t that worth the occasional outburst aimed at the TV? TRAVELING? ARE YOU SERIOUS?

I think so.

Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or dshowalter@therepublic.com.

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