New National Holiday

Almost all kids love Christmas. It’s the greatest holiday of the year. Sure, the Easter Bunny will load you up with sweets. Cupid can stick an arrow in you somewhere on Valentine’s Day. Your parents are great finding the best gifts for birthdays and don’t ever forget the Tooth Fairy, even if kids now-days think he/she looks like The Rock. No matter what you stack against it, Christmas is the greatest holiday.

I now want to promote a new national holiday. This holiday would last for a full seven days. Employers would be required to be sensitive to all employees that are tied to this holiday. Restaurants and bars would be forced to stay open and expand its hours. I’m still looking for inventive names for this holiday. For right now, let’s call this glorious week The National Festival of Basketball. The holiday would begin a late Sunday night in mid-March with “Selection Sunday.” For this national holiday to really organize, the men’s and women’s basketball hierarchy would have to make some serious attitude adjustments. They would actually have to get along. Both selection shows would have to be on the same day. Use “Selection Sunday” or “Mandate Monday”, but do both selection shows together. Go back-to-back, or announce one men’s region, then one women’s region. Keep all the teams in suspense as long as possible.

Make the men’s and women’s NIT selections on the same level as the NCAA National Tournament selections. Follow the NCAA show with the NIT show. Make it suspenseful for the lower tier teams. Then, when all the selections are in, take two days to get to the regional sites to begin play. Ready, set, go! This isn’t out of the question. The first NCAA men’s game is played Tuesday after “Selection Sunday.” Make all the teams hustle to get to their regional sites.

People may think that putting women’s basketball on the same table as men’s basketball won’t work. I think it’s possible, but perhaps not likely. This may sound really bad coming from an NCAA coach, but if women’s point spreads were listed in Las Vegas with the men’s, the popularity of women’s basketball would skyrocket. Why not work backwards? The NCAA demands the selection shows be shown together, women’s games are broadcast equally with the men’s games, demand the television contracts include many, many broadcast sites for games. Las Vegas will then be forced to post women’s point spreads; Instant popularity with a whole new group of fans.

All NCAA Division I first- and second-round games are played during the National Festival of Basketball. Make it happen from Tuesday through Saturday. Include all men’s and women’s NIT contests in this time frame. Every game at every site is broadcast over the airways. Take away all news of health care debates. News of Toyota problems will be put on the back burner. No talk for one whole week of the NFL draft. Wall Street can keep running, but no one knows if points were lost or gained for one whole week. The die-hard fans can even postpone funerals of loved ones until the National Festival has concluded. Either postpone funerals or send relatives to their eternal rest with a flat-screen TV and a week’s worth of junk food at the foot of the casket. Romans were buried with their riches, weren’t they?

Now comes the tricky part. We can’t forget about the lower divisions of basketball. We have to consider NCAA Division II and III. There are the national tournaments for NJCAA (junior colleges) in three divisions. Then there are two divisions of the NAIA. There might even be a national tournament for small, private, religious colleges. National Festival for basketball has time slots for all these events. In NCAA II and III, the Elite Eight can be played during this special week in March. For instance, play the quarterfinals on Sunday, the semifinals on Monday and the championship game on Tuesday. Make it the appetizer before the main course begins on Wednesday. St. Joseph is hosting the NCAA II women next week. Just move it up a week to take advantage of this national holiday.

Junior colleges could time their Final Four event to happen at some point during this new holiday week. The NAIA holds a very special event. They don’t stretch their national tournament over two or three weeks. Thirty-two teams determine a national champion in seven hectic days. Make sure the Final Four of the NAIA is played during the National Festival of Basketball.

I’m exhausted just writing about my ideas. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to pull it off. However, think of what a great week it would be for anyone with any kind of interest in basketball. The Super Bowl, the World Cup and even the Olympics couldn’t compete. Bowl Week in December and January would only be a passing event as everyone waited for March to arrive and celebrate the National Festival of Basketball.

I love fantasies in sports. Do you know anyone who has read the book “Shoeless Joe”? That was the story the movie “Field of Dreams” was taken from. The same type of story, written by the same author, is told in the “Iowa Baseball Confederacy.” It’s about a baseball game between the early 1900’s Chicago Cubs and an all-star team from Iowa. The game lasted thousands of innings, continuing through storms and floods until its merciful conclusion. Great illusions that only sports fanatics could love. The National Festival of Basketball may just be my own illusion, but I will be either at a game or glued to a television the entire week of the mythical seven days of the National Festival of Basketball.

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Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.