Brees signing would bring sanity to March Madnessby J.W. Miller on 03/12/18
I got my first taste of March Madness, 2018 style, Sunday while watching the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game. A couple of weeks ago, I probably would have spent the day playing golf or participating in another event tied to my mother-in-law’s 91st birthday festival. By the way, Happy Birthday, Nanny G! But noooo! My beloved Kentucky Wildcats, who have bedeviled Big Blue Nation most of the season, put together three inspiring performances and once again have its loyal legions by the short hairs, pulling us sadistically into another fog of hope that they can somehow play above their No. 5 seed and win their ninth NCAA title.
So, in the context of knowing what lay ahead in the next excruciating weeks, I say thanks to Drew Brees! In the next 48 hours, Brees is expected to provide the pre-tournament respite that I need when he signs a new contract with the Saints. Brees has two days left to sign the contract or send the Saints into Salary Cap purgatory with an immediate $18 million hit. Of course, the local heroes have been there before, and may be forced to take the hit now rather than later if agent Tom Condon plays hardball.
The good news is that Brees has sounded like Ghandi so far, spewing peace and love while declaring he wants to play out his career in New Orleans. That suggests a deal will get done before Wednesday, likely another multi-year contract that spreads the guaranteed money out over several seasons until a voidable option kicks in and creates another expensive deadline down the road. But that’s down the road, a mysterious place where NFL front offices are loathe to acknowledge. Their existence depends on the here and now, improving the team they have, which in the Saints’ case is a reasonable strategy.
Saints brass could use that $18 mil to attract some free agents to bolster areas of concern, including tight end, defensive line and cornerback. The most discussed free agent is former Saints TE Jimmy Graham, who has spent the past three seasons in exile in Seattle, but whose return would be a fitting punctuation mark to his career. Other free agent names have been well documented, and I’m sure the Saints will bring in two or three before concentrating on the Draft. But right now, it’s March, and after Brees re-ups, I’ve got to get through the madness that torments basketball fans.
You think I’m kidding? Sunday was a great example of what I mean. It was a day of conference tournaments whose purpose is known only to television moguls and moneychangers in conference offices. The title game is only a tune-up of sorts to the real thing. Win or lose, your team will play again, but it doesn’t matter. It’s March, and the spouse, children or pets you normally cherish know better than to be near you today. Here's why:
The game starts, and your television sits there, teasing you as your team looks great in the early going. Your team hits 16 of their first 19 shots and you fret about the three they missed. You know that leads are ephemeral, subject to inexplicable droughts that in the past have become 3 for 33 nightmares! Predictably, that fickle quality called "momentum" shifts and the opponent comes roaring back as if your team’s sneakers are nailed to the floor!
Your stomach is tight. You are grinding your teeth. You are shouting at the TV as if your demands will waft through the ether and into the ears of these kids who hold your life in their feckless hands. You shout instructions, but the TV becomes the golf ball that you beg not to keep slicing toward the water. Like the dimpled sadist, the TV doesn’t listen, either. It taunts you when your team can’t hold a 17-point first-half lead any better than Germany could hold a first-half advantage in World War II. But at the end, it’s your mirror double in Knoxville who is tossing his 65-inch Samsung over the balcony as your team is victorious.
I sat there enjoying my Maker’s Mark on the rocks, knowing all along that this game didn’t really matter. The brackets were set, and my team was likely going to open the tournament in Boise anyway. But I also know that the NCAA tournament is a plague of palpitating hearts and sweaty palms where a loss is the true meaning of “one and done.” Does that make every game a “must” win?
World War II was a “must” win. This is merely March Madness.