Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Geography fail

Stuff just doesn't stay the same. It is the bane of the aged.

The calendar pages peel away (remember that movie montage?), you start getting mail from AARP, and one grim day you find yourself wondering why they don't make any good movies anymore. And why it can't be like it was when Dale Earnhardt was alive. And what the hell do you mean Peyton Manning's retired?

Why, he's just a kid!

And then, on some other day, when you're daydreaming about getting frostbite at the bus stop all those years ago -- I lost a couple of toes, it was GREAT! -- you look up and see this where the schedule for the Big Ten basketball tournament used to be:

Ohio State vs.  Rutgers. 7 p.m. The Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.

Wait, what?

Rutgers is in the Big Ten? And the Big Ten tournament is in Washington, D.C.?

The latter especially sounds like a nasty prank, because Washington is no more a Big Ten venue than Kuala Lumpur is. Except ...

Well. Except it is now.

The conference jettisoned its geographical identity when it let in Rutgers and Maryland, two East Coast schools that have as much connection to the Big Ten as Alabama does. The goal was to lasso those yummy East Coast TV markets for the Big Ten Network -- which is a big reason why the Big Ten tournament begins tomorrow night in D.C., and why next year it plays New York.

This is what used to be Big East country, and to us codgers it always will be. Just as Maryland will always be an ACC school no matter how long it masquerades as a Big Ten school, D.C. and New York should always be home to the Big East tournament.

The Big Ten?

Its roots are and always will be in the Midwest. Even if conference officials have decided to abandon the Midwest the next two years for a pile of dough.

Except for that, it makes no sense, what's going to happen this week. The vast majority of the conference is still in the Midwest. That's why Indianapolis and Chicago have always been the logical sites for the Big Ten tournament -- and why moving it to the East Coast for the next couple of years feels wrong the way showing up at a black-tie dinner in a Speedo is wrong.

It's just plain weird. And a betrayal of all those Midwestern fan bases who built the conference, and who now must traipse halfway across the country to follow their teams in the Big Ten tournament -- and at East Coast prices.

That's not likely to be immediately reflected in the attendance, mind you. The novelty of playing in the nation's capital and the Big Apple will likely keep the numbers up. But watch what happens to those numbers the second or third time the Big Ten takes its tournament where it doesn't belong.

Abandonment, after all, cuts both ways.  

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