Monday, November 1, 2010

Mid Majority's Seventh Sojourn/Required Reading - One Beautiful Season

If you know me, then you definitely know that I am a huge Moody Blues fan.  Seen them 20 plus times since the first time I saw them in concert.  That was 1984, eight rows from the stage at Jones Beach Theater here on Long Island.  It was the second night of their scheduled stop at Jones Beach.  They added the show due to the first one selling out.  Back then, they were a really big draw.   They still draw well, twenty six years later.  I should know, I saw them at CMAC up in the Finger Lakes this summer as well as last year at Radio City Music Hall, which was again played in front of a sold out crowd.

The Moody Blues put out an album in 1972 called Seventh Sojourn, which included the big hit "I'm Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band".  I thought it was a perfect lead-in to this article about The Mid Majority's Seventh Season,which started at midnight this morning.  But the reason I used the Moody Blues reference here is more than just Seventh Sojourn = TMM Seventh Season.  It's much more interesting than that.

If you are a contributing member to the The Mid Majoriy site, or TMM as it's called, or are a regular reader of the TMM, you know that every November 1st starts the TMM's season.  The TMM season runs from November 1st until the final mid major is eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.   This past season, the end didn't come until the outcome of the NCAA Tournament Final when Duke outlasted Butler 61-59.

2009-10 was the season of the mid-major.  If you include Xavier as a mid-major, which for these purposes only, I will, five mid major teams made the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament - Xavier, St Mary's, Northern Iowa, Cornell and Butler.   Four of those teams' sojourn ended at the Sweet Sixteen round of play. But of course, Butler would defeat Syracuse, Kansas State and Michigan State in that order before giving the Blue Devils their best game in the dance.

The 2009-10 season was captured in the recent book "One Beautiful Season" by Kyle Whelliston, the author and founder of the The Mid Majority site.  Several chapters are adapations from Kyle's essays on the Mid Majority Site and some segments are from his work at the Basketball Times.    However, when segments new and old are all woven together, "One Beautiful Season", simply put, is an epic.  It's  five hundred and fifty five glorious pages dedicated to this past college basketball season.  But it's more than just recapping Butler's great run or the seasons' of the other successful Mid Major teams.

One Beautiful Season is also about the struggle for the all the mid major teams across the country striving for success.   It's also about coaches, who most people have never heard of, trying to get their teams to have a winning season to keep their jobs, let alone make it to the Big Dance.  It's also about coaches, like Tennessee Tech's Mike Sutton, who is literally trying to hold onto life after suffering a crippling disease. It's also about Morehead State's Donnie Tyndall, coach of Morehead State.  Reading the book, you will find out why Tyndall believes in his "The Game Will Hurt You" philosophy.

The book is not all about tragedy.  It also has its humorous moments when Kyle takes on various jobs such as assistant coach, assistant Sports Information Director, Stat Crew member (which is an absolutely surreal look into stat geek land), and last, but not certainly least, Kazoo member of the Northeastern Pep Band.   You'll happily learn about the coach underneath the basket during warmups, jammed printers causing havoc during games, "J22" and what section the Kazoo fits in the band.

It's also a book that details the cold hard reality of the finances of college basketball, where Final Fours are in giant football stadiums, stadiums that are often right across from abandoned buildings.  It's a world where journalists have to drink from required branded cups during the Final Four, small schools play guaranteed or "body bag" games just to keep their basketball budgets afloat, or where some schools have to abandon their dreams and move down to DIII due to lack of money.

Finally, it's a true labor of love that Whelliston has written.  It's all about the lonely road trips from one basketball school in the midwest or southeast to another.  It's about towns like Natchitoches, Edwardsville, and Cookeville, homes of Northwestern State, SIU Edwardsville and Tennessee Tech where low mid major teams struggle to succeed.  It's about the rivalries between two schools, Belmont and Lipscomb on the same boulevard in Nashville.

What Whelliston has crafted is a masterpiece.  It's a book that once you start, you eagerly anticipate Kyle's next chapter interwoven from the prior chapter.  And for those of us who are familiar with many of the stories from the past TMM season, it's often a great look back at how the season unfolded along the way.  If you're a fan of college basketball, this book is absolutely required reading.  You can purchase it here.

So back to the TMM season seven.  Last night was the launch party for the site.   Via Ustream, Kyle replayed last season's classic Duke vs. Butler championship game on the site while many of us tweeted comments to the site using #s7 hashtag.  There in tweetspace you could see all the people following along and commenting, including yours truly.

After the replay was over, the site played "One in Seven" by the Engineers (a song so good, I downloaded it to ITunes after I figured out what the song was and who played it).  We all awaited excitedly and actually tweeted down the minutes to midnight and the start of season seven.   It was like waiting for the gates to open and see your favorite rock band play.  In this case, it was to be the first able to read "Prologue, the Constellations."  It's such a good start to the season, I will let you read it for yourself.

But it's not just the start of Season 7 of the TMM.  To me, the launch of season seven of TMM is truly the unofficial start of the college basketball season.   If you have a favorite college team, you can now think about the possibilities of a successful season, that chance to go to the big dance.  It's also looking forward to just being able to watch college basketball games, the best sport to see live.

I am ending this column with the song "New Horizons", another song off the Moody Blues Seventh Sojourn album.  This version is done by the Moody Blues lead singer/songwriter Justin Hayward.  It's one of my all time favorite Moody Blues songs.  The definition of sojourn is "a temporary stay" or "to spend a certain length of time".   You can say a season is a temporary stay or a certain length of time.   Thus you can say that Season Seven of the TMM is a Seventh Sojourn.  A sojourn many of us are looking forward to and thanks Kyle for making it happen.

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