March Madness? Bring it on!
Buffalo's reputation as the country's snow capital has proven unwarranted this year, but there's still no better way to shake off the winter than with warming temperatures and heated competition. This city has both this week, as sunshine heralds the unrolling of the welcome mat once again for the opening round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
For the fourth time, Buffalo will host tournament games Friday and Sunday. We're getting pretty good at this stuff, having hosted March Madness games in 2000, 2004 and 2007.
The hoopla, pardon the pun, is good for the city's sports reputation, as well as for the estimated $5 million in immediate economic impact. (The 2007 tourney brought in an estimated $4.5 million in revenue, but this year has two nearby powerhouse teams to draw spectators from Syracuse and West Virginia.)
Here's hoping it also increases our reputation as gracious hosts and caring folks. Earlier problems with accommodating 19,000 fans seeking food and drink during the 90-minute breaks between afternoon and evening sessions have led to all-out commitments to help, and a corps of easily identifiable volunteers will be directing visitors downtown.
That community spirit is commendable, and this City of Good Neighbors effort can build on the heart shown -- and great marketing received -- as part of the "Extreme Makeover" neighborhood project last fall.
The tournament volunteers deserve thanks -- especially if they broaden those smiles and allow our visitors to get off a few good-natured jabs about the weather, which wasn't so bad this winter compared to other parts of the country that got hammered by huge amounts of snow. That's OK -- let it slide so they'll keep coming back. There's a method to our own madness.
And, oh yes, there are actually some pretty decent basketball teams headlining the event.
When the news hit that Syracuse University would be headed down the Thruway, both coach Jim Boeheim and Buffalo sensed a home-court advantage, and those of us living in neighboring Snow Belt country felt a kinship. Syracuse, the Big East Conference regular season champion, and West Virginia, the Big East Tournament champion, stand at the top of the eight teams that will play East and West regional games here Friday and Sunday. The two won't meet, because they play in different regional brackets, but the six other teams -- including Gonzaga -- offer high-quality competition, too.
We've got visitors coming. They're as welcome as springtime -- and bring it on!