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Live From The Game Of Somebody’s Life, With Dan McQuade

Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell shrugs after hitting a big shot in the Wildcats' Elite Eight game at Madison Square Garden.
Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

We are running out of college basketball. The men's bracket is down to its "final four," if you'll pardon my jargon, and the season is down to its last three meaningful games. It is at times like these that a reasonable person might look back at all the time they spent watching college basketball this season and wonder what it was worth, really. What did I learn, how was my understanding of anything improved, by staying up late to watch the Maui Jim Invitational in goddamn November, or spending some of my remaining hours on earth watching the Horizon League semifinal in early March? How might the Columbia-Cornell game I attended in February have informed my opinion of Princeton's chances against Arizona in March?

The answer to this, which I think was clear even then, is that while nothing of any significance was gained as a result of this, nothing was lost, either. As Dan McQuade has written, going to a basketball game is good for you; watching a game between two teams whose individual and collective reach exceeds their individual and collective grasp is, at the very least, not bad for you. Which is good news for Dan, because he has been spending a lot of time with it, covering a host of local conference tournaments, and then the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games at Madison Square Garden, and now preparing to cover the Final Four in Texas. So we had him on to talk about all that.

Dan has seen some things during his journey through the college basketball demimonde—a ghost player on Marist, Markquis Nowell's supernova experience and Florida Atlantic's persistence, an inbounds play that looks like it was designed by June Jones, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, things of that nature. He also survived a terse email from the mildly hacked-off coach who designed that inbounds play, and turned it into a fantastic post. What I have enjoyed about Dan's college basketball coverage this season, even when it doesn't involve saying nice things about a guy who's sold me some Silkworm records, is how well he captures how communal and goofy and fun this all can be, when it works right. (Dan being Dan, he also seems to love it most when it barely works at all.) Ethically, there remains no excuse for college basketball as it currently exists. But as an experience, and a way to enjoy a ragged and emotional version of the game, it's pretty tough to beat. This is the thing I try to remind myself when I am tempted to treat it as work, or just as something that I could understand. It's not that. It's there to be experienced, and that experience (and how to write about it) was mostly what we talked about here.

Mostly, but not entirely. Because this is the podcast that it is, there was still some dumb stuff to talk about the end that had nothing much to do with college basketball. I guess remembering Emeka Okafor is related to college basketball in some ways, but that pretty quickly became a vehicle for Dan to share his spicy thoughts about Wilmington, Del. The Funbag opened up an opportunity to talk about trauma-forward reality programming and for Dan to share his industry-leading knowledge about the uniquely perverse VH1 programming of the early-aughts. That led, somehow, into a discussion of dick pic etiquette. I don't imagine we learned anything from that, either, but then that's not really what any of this is about.

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