Monday, November 14, 2011

ESPN's College Basketball Marathon

For what I think is the fourth consecutive season, ESPN is kicking off its college hoops coverage with a 24-hour tipoff marathon. Wall-to-wall college basketball, for 24 hours straight, beginning at midnight Eastern tonight.

Despite loving college basketball and being something of a night owl, I've never actually attempted to watch the whole thing. I always had class or something that I had to go to.

Not this year. This year, I'm going to take advantage of being unemployed, and I'm going to watch the whole thing.

Because the next 24 hours is going to be consumed by college basketball, and because this site will be bursting with content, I'm not going to do any usual posts today. No Metal Monday, no Notable Results, no clever Time Warner Cable previews (though these may end up on Twitter). I'm not even going to go through my Google Reader or DVR to see how Vanderbilt lost to Cleveland State yesterday. The next few hours are devoted solely to preparing myself for the marathon.

Having never done this before, however, I needed some help.

Joel has been my best friend since we were in junior high, and is a fellow college basketball enthusiast. Before the tip-off marathon even existed, Joel had set a goal of watching nothing but ESPN for 24 hours straight. So in 2008, when the Worldwide Leader announced this college basketball orgy, Joel was onboard.

He started a blog for the event, and received pledges to help benefit the American Heart Association. The amount he raised is modest, but significant. He did something similar in 2009. Neither of us can remember if he did it last year -- his blog has no posts from that time. But he's back on for this season.

I asked Joel for some advice.

He said that there are going to be lulls, points in the action where there's just not anything going on. The toughest stretch, he said, are the games right around daybreak in the East, games in which the teams are substandard and the viewer starts to realize just how long he has to go. Indeed, I think the 4 a.m. Eastern Cal State-Northridge at Hawai'i contest happens early enough out here in California to make it reasonably easy to stay up, but I am eyeing the Drexel-Rider/Morehead State-Charleston back-to-back that follows very warily.

Joel says that the key to surviving such slow patches is to stay involved. Blogging and tweeting should help take care of that, and I'm sure the two of us will find interesting things to talk about.

Beyond that, Joel's main contribution was to give me a list of things to avoid, which includes putting oneself into a completely horizontal position at any time. (Slight reclining in a lounge chair is fine.) Atop that list is alcohol, a point that pained him to make but that I didn't need to hear -- I know myself well enough to know that I haven't got a chance of making it through this thing if I start drinking. I've got a beer or two in the fridge that I may crack in celebration when it's all over, but other than that, it'll be soda and water for me.

Speaking of food, I asked Joel for advice on what edible supplies I might need for this endeavor. He said that one strategy is to have food on hand that you look forward to eating, so that it serves as motivation to stay up. He then listed chips and salsa and a frozen pizza he's had in his freezer for a while as his motivation this go-round. Joel's an interesting guy.

As for me, I made at trip to the grocery store and came back with the following:
*Bananas (tasty, good for you, good energy food)
*Yogurt (combine with bananas for breakfast, a meal I rarely eat, anyway)
*Various vegetables and hummus (eating unhealthy food tends to make me tired. Plus, trying to digest crudite should give my body something to concentrate on other than how badly it wants to go to sleep)
*Cracker-type things called "Pretzel Crisps" (I love me some carbs, and these were on sale at the grocery store)
*Creamy chicken and wild rice soup (hearty, easy to heat up)
*Frozen burritos (these are a last resort, but at 3/$1.00, they're a cheap insurance policy)

Depending on whether I eat the soup for dinner before the marathon starts, I may end up ordering a pizza Tuesday afternoon to take me through the home stretch.

I also bought three 12-packs of TaB, which is basically a week-and-a-half's supply for me under normal circumstances. I need to grab a gallon of water, also. I will be doing this without the aid of energy drinks. I don't regularly drink coffee, but there's a Starbucks nearby, close enoough that I can get there and back during halftime of a game, if necessary.

With all these supplies, I feel like I'm prepared, but as Robert Burns wrote, "the best-laid plans of mice and men/go oft awry." I don't want to speak for Mr. Burns, but extrapolating from those famous words doesn't seem to bode particularly well for plans that, like me on my prom night, are not well-laid. And this is a problem, because to the extent that I've made plans for this, they are pretty sloppy and meager. I really did not prepare all that well for this mission; I got a normal night of sleep last night, for example, so taking a nap this afternoon to be fresh for the start of the marathon will be difficult.

Can things go awry more frequently than "oft?" Because if they can, I might be in trouble. Here, specifically, is what I'm most worried about, along with the strategies I'm planning to employ to combat them:

Falling asleep. I used to be a borderline insomniac. I had a terrible time falling asleep, couldn't sleep in cars or planes, and generally only needed about four hours of sleep per night to function. Once I turned 30, though, it was like a switch flipped: I can barely stay awake in a car, I sleep six or seven hours per night, and I can fall asleep (gasp!) during basketball games. Couple this with the fact that I haven't really tried to adjust my biorhythms for this event and that my chair is a very comfortable place to fall asleep, and I could be in trouble.
Strategies: Caffeine. Switching to my less comfortable desk chair. Engaging myself in social media to help pass the time. As a failsafe, I've set an alarm to go off on my phone every half hour starting at 3 a.m. Pacific.

Physical pain. I've got bad knees and a tight back, and sitting in a chair for 24 hours isn't exactly what the doctor ordered for either of those things. I've also noticed that the angle of my lounge chair can make my head and neck hurt if I sit in it for too long.
Strategies: Tylenol. Quick walks around the block at halftime. As a last resort, I do have a yoga mat, so I could bang out some downward dogs during the games if I really needed to.

My girlfriend. She's a big hoops fan, but I think this strikes even her as a little ridiculous. Plus, this means I won't see her at all, and she had a couple of crowns put on her teeth today, so she's kind of miserable and I won't be around to help.
Strategies: Be incredibly handsome and charming. Promise to buy her something nice once I make some money.

Coackroaches. I saw a roach in my kitchen like two months ago, and although it was the only one I've seen in two-plus years living here and my terrific landlord sprayed for them right after the sighting and I haven't seen any since, I am terrified that they are still around. I'm not afraid of bugs, per se: I'm afraid of bugs that startle me when I see them by skittering all over the place, and so I'm basically afraid to be awake in my apartment in the middle of the night.
Strategies. Prepare food in the microwave, which is across my apartment from the kitchen, instead of using the stove. (This has nutritional benefits, as well!) Leave the light on in the bathroom, which is near the kitchen and has been home to suspicious, tiny brown bugs in the past.

During the marathon, I'll be posting here, as well as on Twitter. Follow @HSSlamPhD if you're not already. I may even jump in on Joel's live blog, if we can figure out how to do that. You should join in the fun by responding here, on Joel's blog, or Twitter.

The full schedule of games (all times Eastern):

Midnight - Washington State at Gonzaga
2 a.m. - Northern Iowa at St. Mary's
4 a.m. - Cal State-Northridge at Hawai'i
6 a.m. - Drexel at Rider
8 a.m. - Morehead State at Charleston
10 a.m. - Kent State at West Virginia
Noon - Belmont at Memphis
2 p.m. - San Diego State at Baylor
4 p.m. - Rhode Island at Texas
4 p.m. - Louisville vs. Texas A&M (women's) (ESPNU)
6 p.m. - Miami (FL) at Tennessee (women's) (ESPN2)
7 p.m. - Duke vs. Michigan State
8 p.m. - Florida at Ohio State (ESPN2)
9 p.m. - Kentucky vs. Kansas
10 p.m. - Austin Peay at California (ESPN2)

*All games televised on the mothership, ESPN, unless noted otherwise.

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