“The nice thing about scripted entertainment is that the good guys usually win in the end. In sports, the odds aren’t that good.” – Me

Eventually I’m going to talk about NCAA tournament failures, but first I have a very long tangent. At my wife’s urging I reluctantly saw the first two Harry Potter movies. But it was not until the third movie, The Prisoner of Azkaban, that I became hooked on the series. Perhaps it was the “Back to the Future” style dueling timelines in the third film. Or perhaps it was Alfonso Cuaron, who took over as director for the third installment. Cuaron’s many directorial changes included changing the look of the students. In the previous movies they had all worn their school uniforms properly, with the shirts tucked in and ties snugly knotted around their necks. But Cuaron asked the cast to wear their school uniforms like they would if they were really sent off to boarding school. And with shirttails un-tucked and ties loosened around the neck, the films finally started to work for me. I eventually read all the books and saw the epic eighth movie this week.

“Before the internet, where did people go to complain?”

One of the amazing things about popular sports teams, television shows, books, and movies is that people love to go online and complain about how things turned out. It is an amazing phenomenon. I remember when ESPN the Magazine was launched. They claimed that Sports Illustrated told the stories after they happened, but ESPN the Magazine was going to tell the stories before they happened. In my experience, plenty of people like to read the stories after they happen.

Maybe it is our culture of highlights. It isn’t enough to just watch the game. We need to see the home run on Sports Center. We need to hear the interviews on the local news. We need to read the AP recap that says nothing. And we need to read our favorite blogger remind us how the second basemen flubbed an easy double play in the third inning. Otherwise the experience is not complete. For non-sporting events, there may not be highlights, but there are still reviews, and forums, and commentary to be found everywhere.

After watching the eighth Harry Potter film, I hurried home to see what complaints and comments were online. My favorite thread included the following. “I loved this movie, but after reading all these comments, I’m depressed now!” I felt bad for the forum newbie. In my experience, the more people love something, the more biting the criticism. In TV show threads, you often see people write…

“If you hate the show so much, why do you keep watching?”

People live to complain. But the Harry Potter comments were pretty benign. The most common complaint about the final film was that Harry Potter broke the Elder Wand without fixing his own wand. This was best summarized as follows. “Am I supposed to believe he went the rest of his life using Draco’s wand?”

Personally, I find this complaint laughable. This was a movie, a screenplay adaptation of the book. I find it hard to see how fixing Harry’s wand was even remotely essential to telling the story. Or as my wife put it, “Who needs a wand? Voldemort is dead.”

Voldemort is dead. I should probably mention that this is a spoiler. Sports folks are terrible about spoilers because we discuss everything the moment it happens. And I’m not just talking about when I DVR the British Open and my mom calls and tells me the ending ahead of time. No, even the professionals screw this up. ESPN TV and the Internet have been in a huge hurry this week to show me the nine finalists in the World Series of Poker. But isn’t that bad for ratings? Why should I watch 12 weeks of episodes where the field is whittled from 6800 to 9, now that I know the ending? If ESPN ran Survivor, they’d tell you the winner six months before the thing aired.

Of course I had my own extremely bizarre complaints about the final film: When Harry used the Resurrection Stone, why was his dad so far away from him? While his mom, Sirius Black, and Lupin were close to him, his dad was positioned behind him in the distance. Was this a directorial mistake? Or was this supposed to imply that Harry was no longer close to his dad after Snape’s comments? I never got the impression that Harry soured on his dad in the book, so this seemed like an odd directorial choice to me.

And if you think that comment is odd, you haven’t seen Duke fans complain about how Andre Dawkins was used last year. When you really care about something, you complain about the subtle details.

But I still found the final film to be extremely satisfying. It was fun to see the castle get blown up, Ron and Hermione kiss, Neville kill the snake, and Harry smite Voldemort in the end. After seven books and eight films, the payoff was worth it in my humble opinion. Which leads to this:

“The nice thing about scripted entertainment is that the good guys usually win in the end. In sports, the odds aren’t that good.” – Me

Every March I find myself asking myself “why”. Why did I waste so much time and energy only to see my team end the season with a loss yet again? Why did I put in the emotional investment when the odds of a title are slim to none? Aren’t books, movies, and television ultimately more satisfying? Wouldn’t it be nice if, in the end, the good guys could actually celebrate?

But the truth is we should not view the NCAA tournament as having one winner. This year numerous teams deserved to celebrate their March success. Connecticut was not the only team with a special season. What about:

VCU – Their First Four to Final Four quest will live in history.

San Diego St. – Sure, someone was probably sad the team did not make the Regional Final as a two seed. But for a team that had not won an NCAA tournament game in the field of 64, a Sweet Sixteen bid was a special accomplishment.

Marquette: The first Sweet Sixteen since 2003 was awful nice.

Florida St. – Admittedly, the loss to VCU stung at the time, but the first Sweet Sixteen since 1993 is worth celebrating.

Richmond – The first Sweet Sixteen since 1988 broke a long drought.

BYU – And BYU had a longer streak. They had not been to the Sweet Sixteen since 1981.

Temple – Despite some great teams, the Owls had not won an NCAA tournament game since 2001.

George Mason – The first NCAA win since 2006 deserved some applause.

Morehead St. – They had won in the “opening round”, but not in field of 64 since the field expanded.

And there are more teams that should celebrate, but probably did not:

Kentucky – The first Final Four since 1998 was reason to be excited, but Kentucky fans probably will not be satisfied until they win it all.

Arizona – Again, the first trip to the Elite Eight since 2005 is great. It proves that Sean Miller knows what he is doing and that Arizona is back. But Arizona fans may have been spoiled by Lute Olson.

Cincinnati – It was the Bearcats first NCAA win since 2005. It may not be the days of Bob Huggins, but this was a first step.

Illinois – And finally, it was the Illini’s first NCAA win since 2006. Fans probably expect more, but when you don’t win an NCAA game for several years, you should savor every one of them.

Even Butler should celebrate two straight championship games. But after the way the last game ended, everyone walked away with a sour taste in their mouth. And so perhaps the NCAA tournament is not like an epic movie franchise after all. Because if UConn – Butler was the final act, there would not be a sequel.