Thanks to wall-to-wall television coverage and constant reminders from Facebook “Memories,” I continue to reminisce about March Madness and my own fortunate direct involvement in what makes this month stand out.
As many of you know, in 2016, I was the radio voice and sports information contact for the Cal State Bakersfield men’s basketball team. The squad managed a buzzer-beater in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Las Vegas, and the Roadrunners punched their ticket to their first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
It was at this point that the "madness" part of "March Madness" truly sank in. As I watch other teams shine, Cinderella teams pull off upsets and the 2018 tournament unfold, I’m reminded fondly, and sometimes not so fondly, of the reality of this tournament, which is this: It’s a heck of a lot of work.
Now while the players for the most part enjoy the experience, they’re pretty much expected to do the same: practice, rest and play the game. But for the coaches and staff members, our world gets turned upside down. For example, from the time the game-winning shot went down in Las Vegas for CSUB in 2016, I didn’t sleep for 28 hours. Not because I enjoyed Sin City, but because there was a mountain of work to do to prepare for Selection Sunday, media requests and materials needed for your host site.
I lived on Starbucks, fast food and adrenaline for three straight days. The media interview requests were non-stop, both for myself and our head coach. I received some interest thanks to my radio call and many sports talk shows wanted to talk to me about reliving that moment. I’ll always say, “I now know what it feels like to ride a lightning bolt.”
Even once airborne for our first-round destination of Oklahoma City, I couldn’t rest. That’s because our plane had to make an emergency landing after a staff member passed out from exhaustion. Then the interview requests came pouring in again. Such was the life.
I did get a chance to enjoy the run in my own unique way. I’ll never forget that feeling walking into the arena in Oklahoma City, the day before our game and seeing the court with the NCAA logos on it and the massive amount of seating surrounding it. I thought back to when I was just starting out as an announcer in college and to some of the cracker-box gymnasium’s I’d originated broadcasts from. This was the big time.
I also had the chance to sit courtside for the game prior to ours the following day. VCU was taking on Oregon State and I took advantage of a courtside broadcast location to see the NCAA Tournament up close and personal, fully realizing that would probably never happen again. Internally I had told myself that once the Roadrunners made the Big Dance I would start looking at a career change.
The 2016 NCAA Tournament for me was followed up by the 2017 NIT, which was just as “mad” as March Madness, but in a different way. I’ll never forget those years when I was fortunate enough to experience the greatest month of the year in a personal way.
These days I’m satisfied to watch it play out from my couch. Being a fan has its advantages, but sometimes that reminiscent jolt from riding the lightning yourself brings back both memories and an appreciation for one mad month.
Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.