March Madness in North Dakota

March Madness has struck North Dakota.

When North Dakota State’s men and the University of North Dakota women played their ways into the NCAA basketball tournaments, excitement reached a fever pitch – not that it was far from there to start with. And like other states, North Dakota is full of fans. Not just of basketball, but of all sports.

Some of us like a good sports story. That’s me. Thirty-three years of covering every kind of sports North Dakota can throw at a person has made me as much an interested observer as a fan. I like a good story, even if I’m not covering the game. That means I’m not always root, root, rooting for the home team. Still, it’s always more enjoyable when the “good guys” win. 

I’m happy for the NDSU men, a 12th seed that plays Oklahoma, and UND women, a 14th seed headed for a showdown with Texas A&M, and I hope they both make some noise in the NCAA tournament. They are, after all, underdogs – in basketball. UND hockey isn’t an underdog, but not really playing well enough to be considered a favorite either. It’s going to be fun to see UND play Miami at the upcoming NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

March is the best time of year for sports media, even if they (we?) insist that it’s SO MUCH WORK. Games, all kinds of games, are contagious. Once it’s deep in your soul, it never leaves.

There’s this 51-year-old guy who got married the night Newburg and Linton played in the state Class B championship game in 1985 and spent most of his 29 married years working on his anniversary. Even now, he takes a week of vacation to work 40 hours a week for three straight weeks covering tournament games. He’s a nut … but what else would I – I mean he – be doing. He’s addicted. With so much happening in March in North Dakota, it’s hard not to get addicted to something – UND hockey, NDSU and UND basketball, Class A and Class B high school basketball, junior hockey playoffs, gymnastics, rodeo. It runs the gamut.

For those who like icing on the cake, we can watch legendary state figures who have left the state are in the news. Phil Jackson may join the New York Knicks’ front office and Darin Erstad has Nebraska playing winning baseball.

I urge you to get into the game, even if it’s from the sidelines. You just might not be able to get out.