Here's to some simple fun in the world of the Ohio State fan.
So what if neither Buckeye basketball team was in action this past weekend in the NCAA Tournament?
Call me crazy, but watching four days of games with no vested interest in what happened (Davidson nixed any thoughts I had of winning a pool when the Wildcats felled Georgetown, my pick to be national runner-up) was not so bad at all.
By the fourth game of the Elite Eight, I was impressed that one way or another there would be history made. Either all four No. 1 seeds would have made the Big Dance or another mid-major Cinderella would get to make the trip and charm us for a week.
Everybody wins – and for once the Buckeyes didn't even lose.
I also had fun watching Xavier try to carry the state of Ohio's pride over the weekend before succumbing to a superior team from UCLA.
Then there was that party at Value City Arena last Wednesday night for the Buckeyes' NIT quarterfinal win over Dayton. I must say, I picked the right time to make my first appearance of the year at the Schott without a media credential.
With the crowd mostly full of OSU fans who actually wanted to be there to watch a basketball game, a significant influx of roundball-mad Flyer fans and a distinct lack of the NBA arena effects that mar most regular season contests, VCA isn't such a bad place after all. And the send off for seniors Jamar Butler, Matt Terwilliger and Othello Hunter was nice as well.
When Michigan State sent the Buckeyes home from the Big Ten tournament two-and-a-half weeks ago, who could have envisioned such a happy ending? And at home, no less.
Just goes to show – winning is nice, but winning it all isn't everything.
Again, it is disappointing neither OSU team made it this far, and later this week I will sit down to discuss with head coach Jim Foster why his women's basketball team went home early again, but in the meantime I'll stop to appreciate this distinct time of non-competition, when there are things to worry about besides winning.
Like getting better and having fun with teammates just a handful more times.
This phenomenon even extends to the gridiron. What more light-hearted time of the year is there for college football fans (if not players) than spring ball?
Maybe half of the experience of being a fan these days is in bragging rights, a fact that cuts both ways, for better and for worse.
Sure, March and April do not offer the chance to gloat over any football triumphs with a neighbor (unless your school signs the No. 1 recruit in the country, I suppose), but there is still plenty to pay attention to, and it's the stuff intercollegiate athletics are supposed to be about.
Development to track. Position battles to keep an eye on.
New players to pop onto the scene. Older guys earning reprieves after slow starts to their careers.
No worries about losing because there are no opponents in different-colored jerseys these days, just time for football – getting better, learning and earning spots.
Nothing wrong with that.
A nice change of pace, in fact, in a place where getting really good seems to have ratcheted up the attention, the pressure and the tension, all for better and at times for worse.
Don't get me wrong. I'm just as competitive as the next Midwestern sports fanatic, and I will welcome the return of high-stakes games next season.
But with national championship games seeming to loom around every corner, taking a break did not turn out to be so bad.
After all, as nice as it is to play for all the marbles, only one team is going to win the whole thing each year. The biggest stage brings the most eyeballs, the most glory and the most disappointment.
Of course, with all the starters Jim Tressel has back for 2008 and considering the talent Thad Matta keeps bringing in, seeing this as a breather rather than a turn back to mediocrity is a little easier to do.
Were that not the case, this lull could be cause for alarm.
But have you seen some of these boys Tressel has working out over at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center?
Did you catch William Buford's performance at his future college basketball home in Columbus for the state tournament last month?
Stay tuned – we should be back to your regularly scheduled (championship) programming any day now.