Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Meh-Ness

I'm never all that excited about March Madness, mostly because the most derogatory thing you can call a Division I men's basketball player is "senior." Case in point: Kentucky's drop from champs last year to NIT this year.

And that #65 play-in game was more fun when it was just one game, not four games to get teams #66, 67 and 68 in. So it sucks that just much more to be in the NIT. Senator Ashley Judd is still cheering, but looks a bit disappointed.

That race - and it WILL happen - is even gonna get nasty on the hoops level: Mitch McConnell is a fan of arch-rival Louisville. At least Cardinal Red and Wildcat Blue match the parties.

Of course sports rivalries aren't EVERYthing. I voted for a Bears fan for president, even though his opponent's running mate was a fellow Cheesehead. But what CAN sports tell us about politics?

It can tell us when NOT to do politics, for one thing. In Johnson County, Hawkeye games are mandatory down time for campaigning. MAYBE just some visibility for the game day traffic, but definitely not anything DURING the game.

But what can the sports and teams you like tell us about your politics? National Journal is trying to join the March Madness by recycling a story from last fall that doesn't really tell us much. The elaborate graphs are really about geography and demographics, kind of like saying renters make good Democrats.

The team with the "most Republican" leaning fans is the Alabama Crimson Tide, followed by the Texas Rangers and, in a lingering legacy of John Rocker, the Atlanta Braves. The "most Democratic" fan base goes to the New York Knicks. with the Boston Celtics and San Francisco Giants next.  This tells us zero about sports and nothing that we didn't already know about Alabama and New York.

As for the sports themselves, by far the most Democratic fan base is for the WNBA: female, urban, young and largely minority. The most Republican fans? The men's PGA tour: older, male, suburban, and despite Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, mostly white.

The largest audiences - pro football and the Olympics - line up just to the right of the center line, but close enough to touch it. Their sheer mass audiences help explain that. More fans mean they're more like all of us. Baseball and, back to our point here, college basketball, are in the same neighborhood.

The only interesting thing here is that the college football audience is to the right of the pro fans. Maybe that's just the Southern geography of the highest level of competition and the most intense fans. The Southeast Conference could be a third NFL conference.

More interesting, to me anyway, is this Sports Illustrated article that has absolutely no use for filling out your bracket: the Coolest Person to attend - not necessarily graduate, a one semester dropout counts - every one of the 68 tournament schools.  The Wisconsin Badgers score a very high #4 seed with super-producer and Garbage man Butch Vig. I approve... but is he really cooler than James Dean? There is not a scale of Cool that goes higher than James Dean.

Judd, of course, misses the list along with her team. But the real loser here is Kurt Vonnegut.

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