Midwest Swing: Final Horn


lucas oil stadium

By Paul M. Banks

CHICAGO- 2010 has been perhaps the most exciting NCAA Tournament in recent memory. This March Madness is yet another example of why the college hoops postseason is the best postseason around. It doesn’t need fixing; college football’s pathetic excuse for a postseason does.

The run up to this Final Four featured comebacks, upsets and many incredibly close games.  And the title game may have been the grandest of all!

-I’m no fan of Chicago’s very own Jennifer Hudson, but she did a great job grasping the “One Shining Moment” baton from Luther Vandross. And watch this year’s music video compilation,lucas oil stadium

-Favorite press conference Q and A of the Final Four: a reporter asked Butler 32 year old (but 19 year old looking) head coach Brad Stevens “Seriously, do you get carded when you go out?” And Stevens responded “I don’t have any time to go anywhere that cards people.”

-Speaking of looking really young for your age, the nice man working at the NCAA Hall of Champions let me in for the student rate, which was $3 instead of $5. What a compliment! considering I graduated 11 years ago. But the museum was a terrible waste of money and time, seriously there’s nothing there. It’s not as much of a rip-off as the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, but it’s close. Seriously, what’s up with Indiana having these terrible sports museums?

-I didn’t have a set list of goals for this trip, but as I waited for my delayed Megabus to take me back to the Chi (seriously, NEVER USE MEGABUS.COM- it’s $30 for a reason, they are GOD AWFUL on every level ) I went through my sort of “mini-bucket list” for this trip and realize all that I accomplished including:

-#1 read story on the Washington Times Communities/breaking the comments record on my national title game live blog.

-Getting my picture taken with MSU Motion.

-Meeting, collaborating with, and befriending a “sideline princess” (a sports blogosphere term for any sports reporter who’s ever had a “___ ___ is so hot” type post written about her and subsequently read thousands of times

-Interviewing someone ridiculously famous with more juice than Tropicana, Libby’s and Sunkist combined. (Magic Johnson)banks ncaa hall of champions

-Getting some serious airtime on CBS in my newly pressed dark suit.

-Receiving publicity to the point that it inspired “the haterade.” My hater? A crank call voicemail I received from my crazy ex’s sister’s live-in boyfriend, shortly after millions of people heard me ask Coach K. a question on ESPN.

-Making Tom Izzo chuckle at one of my questions.

-Grabbing “a get” for an exclusive: NFL Network analyst and Izzo BFF Steve Mariucci

-Shoot, edit and post the most interesting and provocative video about national player of the year (likely #2 overall NBA Draft pick) Ohio State’s Evan “His Royal Smoothness” Turner.

-So all in all, I can now say that my biggest accomplishment in life is something more than making out with Denise Richards at a party in college. No, not THE Denise Richards, the train wreck reality show actress, but some random sorority girl with the same exact name.

butler basketball

-My response to Duke winning the national title? “Go to hell, North Carolina Tar Heels.” Even though they didn’t even qualify for the tournament. I still HATE UNC a 1000x more. It’s why I hate the Yankees more than the Red Sox.

-I had so many experiences worthy of a book on this trip, too bad I have no connections in the book publishing world, and the book industry itself is in as much peril as the newspaper business. I’d love to pursue the idea of expanding Midwest Swing into a book, but I didn’t hear a whole lot of encouraging news this past weekend when I was networking. If Mitch Albom isn’t getting support for a book tour, then who is getting heavy promotion?

-March Madness is my favorite time of the year, for numerous reasons I can go into at another time. And this one was the greatest of my life. The only way there could be a better one is if Illinois and Michigan State (somehow, impossibly) both the national title and I’m there at press row for it. But here are three that came close

2005-This Illini team was the greatest in school history, and captured my heart like other team ever could. Illinois set a new single season NCAA record for wins that spring. I was there for the “Miracle on Mannheim,” the “nail-biter to Nellyville,” the most amazing comeback in Illini history, the 90-89 OT win over Arizona in the Elite 8. It was a surreal experience. And then Michigan State gets into the Final Four as an added bonus, beating Ashley Judd and the Kentucky Wildcats in one of the tournament’s all-time classic games. Unfortunately, the ending was not very happy as North Carolina ended both their seasons. See, this is why I can’t stand UNC.

2000-My time at Michigan State University coincides with their second national title in school history. Being at ground zero for the celebration was one of the best experiences of my life. I even met my Asian girlfriend the night of State’s big win over the Cuse. These were good times.

2009- MSU makes it all the way to the title game (stupid Tar Heels beat them again!), I win my pool of over 700 people. And my blonde girlfriend at the time, who hated college basketball, did a good job not getting in the way of my tourney watching time.

-There are a few people I’d like to thank for this amazing journey: David Kay, Joe and Jacqui from the Washington Times Communities, all the personnel from America’s Morning News Radio, Jake Hrudka, and Paul J. and Geraldine Banks.


  1. Geraldine says

    WAY TO GO!!!!!!!!

  2. paulmbanks says

    When I got to the end, I was going to say something more about my ’00 and ’09 gf, but I figured, nah don’t want to end on a negative, when you have nothing nice to say….

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