Thursday is the first day of spring.
That warm thought is followed by another warming thought, that this is also the hottest day of the sports year.
Spring arrives at 12:57 p.m. in the Eastern time zone, coinciding with the opening games of the first full day of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.
I’ve always felt that the first full day of the NCAA tournament was the best sports day of the year long before I ever filled out a bracket, because I’ve always loved the sport first and especially the game played on the collegiate level, which I find more compellingly entertaining than its pro counterpart.
You can have the first day of the baseball season and the Super Bowl, but I’ll take the first full Thursday of the NCAA tournament over those days simply because, on that day, 64 teams can dream the impossible dream and several of them actually get to live it each season.
The first day of the baseball season might be the best one, but it’s still one of 162 similar days. The Super Bowl pits the best two teams in the NFL, but that’s really magical for just two cities. The first Thursday of the NCAA tournament is magical across the entire country, because it comes only once a year and there’s no other all-inclusive day like it.
Thursday is a day when, in the past, the Florida Gulf Coasts can come out of nowhere and start a Cinderella run deep into the tournament. Last year, we did not know who Florida Gulf Coast was on the Wednesday before the tournament, but everyone knew about that school when it upset Georgetown.
Who will be the “Florida Gulf Coast” of this season? We don’t know yet, but we can be relatively certain there will be one. What makes this day so deliciously magical is that this kind of drama can, and often does, unfold right away.
Enjoy the games and the fact that hope springs eternal for all 64 teams once that first jump ball goes up on the best day of the sports calendar.