Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

March 19, 2014

Opening the baseball season in Australia is the real March madness

BLUEFIELD — March Madness is upon us. So is another kind of madness that just drives me, and many fans of baseball, stark, raving mad.

The NCAA Tournament actually began on Tuesday, but the official start is today, as the 68-team field has been whittled to 64, with the next three weeks full of college basketball at its best.

If you haven't filled out a bracket, you are one of the few.

Have you picked your favorite? I have, and will get it to in a moment. I have entered the $1 billion challenge, but I haven't started spending my money yet. Hey, I would be perfectly happy to finish in the top 20 in the nation, and win $100,000.

At least that is realistic.

I actually thought I had won a prize when Arizona won the national title as a 6th seed in 1997. I had a bottle cap from Mountain Dew with Arizona under the lid, and that was supposed to be a winner.

Get the bottle cap, win a prize. It all seemed so simple. I mailed it off, and never heard a thing, and my inquiries were ignored.

Whatever happened I don't know, but I haven't had a Mountain Dew since.

While basketball is supposed to be played mid-March, baseball should be  in spring training, readying itself for opening day, beginning — or at least it should be — in Cincinnati.

Instead, the 2014 Major League baseball season begins on Saturday morning, yes, morning in ... Australia.

Excuse me?

Why must this continue? Baseball is the American game, and our opening day should start in America, not in some country on the other side of the world that has its own sport, cricket, and doesn't need our baseball.

In fact, these games will be played on a cricket venue. I don't see Australia bringing cricket over here for us to see. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind seeing some cricket.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks are already in Australia, readying for two games, on Saturday and Sunday, and then a return to America and ... more spring training?

Does that make any sense? In Bud Selig's eyes, apparently it does.

Want to see the opener? You had better get up early and better have the MLB network. The first pitch is slated on Saturday morning at 4 a.m.

Ouch. It will be repeated immediately after it is over, but we should be able to enjoy our National Game live and in America.

The second game will be played at 10 p.m. on Sunday so at least most humans can watch it.

Why must this continue year after year? Do these countries really want our games? Baseball is constantly taking our so-called National Pastime other places, and now the NFL is seriously considering putting a team in Europe. Those folks over there are much more interested in soccer, and always will be.

No wonder America is hated by so many other countries. We are always trying to push what we have, and they don’t want it, unless it’s our money, which they will gladly take.

Our government is great at sending billions of our dollars to other countries to waste. Why not just leave it here for our politicians to waste here? They do a fine job of it.

It just doesn’t make sense, but enjoy the baseball if you can get up that early, or just stay up, which is I have been doing at night to watch exhibition baseball on the MLB Network.

That is how much I have missed the greatest sport in our country.

When is opening day in America? It is actually opening night, on March 30, with the Dodgers playing the Padres on Sunday night.

Two opening days for the Dodgers in two countries, that might be a record.

Most of the remainder of baseball will begin on Monday, but Cincinnati will not be first as they should be. There are six others games that start before the Reds. Oh well, so much for another American baseball tradition.

While baseball makes me mad, March Madness is usually mad in its own way.

I could be wrong, but I don’t see a lot of upsets and upheaval in this year’s bracket. True, there is plenty of parity now, and that could lead to plenty of surprises, but some of these teams simply don’t need to be in the field.

 In fact, 27 of the 68 teams at least 10 losses, and 13 of those were at-large teams.

This could be March Mediocrity because this field really isn’t anything to rave about. College basketball has been hurt so bad by players leaving early for the NBA that there are no flawless teams left.

My heart has to go to Virginia since Alabama is still trying to figure basketball out again. I have been a fan of the Cavaliers since I was born in University Hospital in Charlottesville nearly 50 years ago.

I don’t, however, have the Cavaliers in the Final Four.

After much consideration and guessing, here is what my choices are for the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and the national champion.

South Regional: Florida, Virginia Commonwealth, Syracuse, Kansas. Florida def. Kansas

East: Virginia, Michigan State, Iowa State, Connecticut. Michigan State def. Iowa State

West: Arizona, San Diego State, Creighton, Wisconsin. Arizona def. Wisconsin.

Midwest: Wichita State, Louisville, Duke, Michigan. Louisville def. Michigan.

As much as parity does exists in college basketball, the four best teams will wind up in Texas. Two No. 1 seeds (Gators, Wildcats) and a pair of No. 4s (Michigan State, Louisville), who should really be higher up on the bracket.

The champion: There are actually two players who have ties to Virginia Tech meeting in this one. Dorian Finney-Smith spent one year in Blacksburg, and is now at Florida. Montrezl Harrell had a change of heart when Seth Greenberg was fired, and helped Louisville win the national championship last season.

That duo will meet in the finals. Who will finish on top?

Go with the Gators.

Chomp, chomp...

Sure wish we could do the same to opening day in Australia.

_Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at or /Twitter @bdtwoodson.


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