Midnight Madness has gone the way of the summer movie. It used to be a simple thing with skits and a scrimmage. Now it takes fancy cars, fireworks and a bit of panache.
Then again, considering how much I enjoyed The Bourne Identity and Transformers, a bigger show isn't all that bad -- especially when I think of just how excruciating Midnight Madness could be. Hanging around in the gym on a Friday night just to see an exaggerated scrimmage? Ugh. Fans could use a little entertainment.
Enter the Jerry Bruckheimer version of Midnight Madness.
That would be Maryland coach Gary Williams showing up at the Comcast Center in a yellow Lamborghini, getting out with to shooting flames and "his traditional fist pump as the Shop Boyz hip-hop beat "Party Like a Rock Star" thumped in the background."
Or it's the Kansas Jayhawks arriving at Allen Fieldhouse in a "Corvette, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, BMW, Hummer, Avalanche and stretch limousine," to say nothing of an appearance by a "Survivor" winner.
What about success-starved Minnesota fans showering new coach Tubby Smith with cheers while Dickie V offers up a larger-than-life video tribute? When it comes to wowing fans, go to those absurd lengths.
Of course, some schools went old school, trotting out the new, high-flying freshmen. In Memphis' case, that's probably the right call. Derrick Rose is going to amaze people this season. Same deal in Indiana, where fans were more than ready for "Er-ic Gor-don, Er-ic Gor-don."
(None of this applies if you're the two-time defending champs. At this point, Florida sets its own tone.)
Other schools had to make a tougher transition. New Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio will try to help the program recover after the death of popular coach Skip Prosser in the offseason. As one might expect, Prosser's memory will loom over the school for some time. "We're going to do everything we can to show Coach Prosser that he definitely is not going to be forgotten," forward L.D. Williams told the AP.
Then again, no other school was more amped for Midnight Madness than Kentucky, where the Billy Gillispie era officially began. How amped? A crowd of "23,313 treated the new coach to a 30-second standing ovation." (The Rupp crowd got a Bruckheimer-esque show of their own, with pyrotechnics and a rappelling mascot.)
As John Clay from the Herald-Leader writes, this day was a long time coming.
"After a summer of speculation and scuttlebutt, Big Blue Nation wants to see with its own eyes, make its own judgments on style of play, and evaluations of talent, philosophy and approach. They want mysteries solved."
And really, that's what Midnight Madness is all about. Even in the new blockbuster style.