by Peter Farrell, the Ultimate Sports Road Trip

March Madness. The opening weekend. It’s like Christmas for hoops junkies and one of the best weekends in all of American sports. Millions of fans around the country sit in front of their TV’s, laptops, phones for two full days vegging out on the spectacle of watching non stop college basketball played at its highest level. While some prefer to stay at home in front of the big screen TV flipping the channel back and forth, I prefer to do things a little differently. I (along with my sports road traveling partner Andrew Kulyk) spend the weekend attending a NCAA subregional, for us it’s always the place to be and I’ll give you plenty of reasons why you should too.

Four games, one day. Seriously, there’s no other event in all of sports like the college basketball postseason that gives a fan an opportunity to witness four games in a single day, and at it’s highest level no less. Where else do you see fans of eight different schools, their passion, their bands, their mascots, their cheers and traditions? All at one time? Where else can you head to a venue, spend an entire day and evening watching four games and leave the building thinking “that’s all?” An NCAA subregional is a celebration of the sport that brings fans of all different schools out of the woodwork. It’s fun just to see fans wearing the paraphenalia of any school, even if they’re not in the Big Dance.

Information is everywhere. It’s 2012. In today’s day and age you have all kinds off access to the action going on elsewhere while being at a subregional. Out of town arena scoreboard is sooooo 1995. Any fan at an arena has access to the other games through cell phones, Ipads, etc. etc. as well as the multiple monitors out in the concourses of the arena. For example, one of the great byproducts of this is seeing a great finish in front of said monitor after the game you saw live is over or in a break. The whooping/hollering/celebrating that goes on rivals what you see in a packed sports bar.

Very affordable event. We’re headed to Albuquerque for this season’s subregional. Face value for a full session package there is 210$. How much does a ticket to a postseason event cost in another major sport? For one game? NHL? NFL? MLB? NBA? Bowl game? Do any of these sports offer the value close to this? Per game it’s incredibly hard to top what this event brings. Furthermore, many times these subregionals do not sell out, and tickets on the street can be had at more reasonable prices given the right circumstances.

One shining moment. There’s many a great moment that occurs in the opening weekend of an NCAA Tournament, and while it’s great to see on TV it’s far better in person. We’ll be attending our ninth subregional since 2000 this season and also have three regional finals to our list as well. I can spend many a paragraph telling you of all the great moments witnessed throught the years. Pepperdine stunning Indiana and ending Bob Knight’s tenure as IU coach. St. Joseph’s making a fool out of Billy Packer in 2004 in front of a huge St. Joe’s fan contigent while blowing through the opening weekend. Witnessing what is believed to be the greatest first round subregional of all time (Tampa, 2008) when four double digit seeds knocked off the favorites in a single day with two games being decided at the buzzer(San Diego > UConn, Western Kentucky > Drake). Seeing a team’s fan base take over a building like we saw in Charlotte for the ’08 Regional Final(Carolina), or Syracuse in Buffalo in ’10, Kansasfan singing “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk in Tulsa last year. Where else but an NCAA tournament would a place like the Carrier Dome become filled with fans boostering the Big Red of Cornell? The many times we’ve seen a neutral arena slowly hopping onto the bandwagon of a heavy underdog and listening to it turn into a full throated home game when the underdog pulls the unthinkable upset(see – VCU over Duke in 2007). Give me the arena over the living room anytime in these situations.

The “day off”. If you’re a fan visiting a subregional from out of town there’s always a day off between the first and second round. See the area, hit the sights that make it famous. I can say I never would have hit the blue turf in Boise without doing this. That’s just one example. And also, there’s always a sports bar or ten in town where all the games will be on for that day.

I think that states my case for going to the event enough. If you’re convinced enough to attend the subregional in say….Albuquerque this season thanks to my commentary you can thank me in person. Just make sure you say “hello” to the guy wearing the University at Buffalo hoodie.

From Buffalo to Boise to Tampa to Tulsa to Charlotte, the Ultimate Sports Road Trip has made the trek to NCAA’s greatest tournament, March Madness, as part of the sports travel experience. This year’s adventure goes to the Pit in Albuquerque, NM. For more information check out the Ultimate Sports Road Trip web site. Follow on Twitter @pfarrellUSRT and @akulykUSRT