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MPSSAA could learn a thing from NASCAR

March 06, 2011
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

Let’s take a look at a few axioms that pop up this time of year.

“The only sure things are death and taxes.”

“Pitchers and catchers are reporting. It’s getting close to spring.”

“Teams are not seeded for the Maryland state basketball tournaments.”

The first two have been rites in their own way. The third is a wrong. And in this case, a wrong by no means makes a rite.

The method that Maryland uses to set the field for its state basketball tournaments continues to fall under scrutiny.

Let’s fast forward past the reasoning — mainly because there doesn’t seem to be any — and just say that it’s a half-step process. Instead of seeding all the teams or pulling all the pairings out of a hat, Maryland uses a combination of both.

The “wisdom” goes like this: Seed the top four teams, then use the Maryland Lottery Commission’s Pick 4 machine to pop in all the rest. Back in the Nixon era, that would be called Ping-Pong Diplomacy. Here, we can’t print the names.

The draw used to bring high anticipation. Coaches used to travel to witness the ceremony, just to see who they were going to play. Now, it’s more of a case of, “Text me with the directions.”

Now, the draw might as well be in the basement of some church on a Friday night. “Players, please pay attention to your cards. We have B-Boonsboro vs. I-Williamsport.”

Believe me, no one is yelling “BINGO.”

Instead, the process is like playing Spin the Bottle with Sasquatch and Charlie Sheen. Take your choice between ugly or just plain undesireable.

The draw creates weird pairings, sometimes with no rewards for success. Teams with better records don’t always get home games, or even a favorable matchup, for their hard work during the regular season.

It’s another PC step in rewarding participation instead of accomplishment. Everyone gets a pink ribbon to feel good about themselves.

So, since the whole process seems to border on ridiculous already, let’s toss another option out there.

Maybe we are looking at the state tournament all wrong. We usually look at it as the “Hoosiers” dream, where an underdog comes out of nowhere to win. Yet, the tournament is high school basketball’s version of the Super Bowl, the World Series and the NBA playoffs.

That’s fine, but why does it have to be that way, especially with Maryland’s approach.

Why doesn’t Maryland become the NASCAR of high school basketball?

Think about it. The auto racing league has its “Super Bowl” — the Daytona 500 — in February as the first race of the season. Nobody has done anything yet. There are no points, seeding or statistics, just a lot of high expectations for the upcoming season. Drivers compete for the title first and then worry about the season.

Perfect. Maryland can break out the ping-pong balls and set the brackets before a single game is played. You can’t ruin a season that hasn’t started. Just send the teams whereever you want.

Instead of March Madness, we’ll have December Delusions.

Maryland would be a trendsetter. Get away from the silly crowning of a state champion at season’s end.  Let’s make that forgotten thing called the regular season more important.

With the state showcase out of the way, the regular season could be used to seed teams for league or area tournaments instead. Then we play for some real bragging rights that would be more tangible and rewarding — and fair. At worst, there would be more champions.

At the very least, it would eliminate the present process from being a pain in the axiom.

Bob Parasiliti is a Herald-Mail sports writer. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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