Thursday, March 16, 2006

March Madness and the virtues of dimished expectations

March Madness begins today.

The other night, I finally got around to watching Mean Girls and I have to say, it was one of the best rentals all year. It's been on my queue for ages, but it was getting bumped for shit like Happiness and Winner of the 2006 Academy Awards for Best Picture and All the Real Girls, you know, films that people like me (read: poseurs) are supposed to enjoy.

Yet I enjoyed Mean Girls more than the aforementioned rentals, and not just because of the pre-weight loss Lohan and the then-unsung Rachel McAdams goodness. If I had to put up two modern day teen movies to go 2 vs 2 against John Hughes flicks from the 80s to save Earth from destruction, I'd have no problem selecting Clueless and Mean Girls and just rolling the ball out onto the court. It's not an enjoyable bad movie, like The Replacements or a Jerry Bruckheimer summer blockbuster - this is a bona fide Good Movie.

But I get the feeling that I enjoy the movie more now, almost 2 years after its release, because at this point, Lindsay Lohan's known better for being a rent-paying Bungalow 8 resident and a public bulimia-denier than as the promising actress she was in 2004.

I went in with such diminished expectations that it all ended up being a pleasant surprise, like Lohan's attractiveness and Tim Meadows (Tim Meadows!). If the movie came out now, it may or may not do as well in theaters, but it would definitely be a sexier darkhorse pick for critics.

I'm wondering if the same thing would happen if Nelly Furtado came out with a banger right now. She was never going to be able to live up to her debut album. As catchy as "Like A Bird" was, it was popular, at least partly, because she came out of nowhere. The followup would have disappointed even if every song was as good as "Turn Off the Lights". Her sensibilities aren't quite Top 40 and she's probably more comfortable as the go-to white girl for the Okayplayer set that she was in 2002.

Would she still be judged by the same post-"Whoa Nelly!" standards? Or would she get the "She's actually not bad" backhand that Bob Saget gets these days?

Which brings us to the 2005-06 University of North Carolina Tar Heels. If last year's title winning team was Lindsay Lohan 2004, this year's surprise #3 Seed is Lindsay Lohan 2006, stripped of its most obvious assets, but still capable of performing in the clutch.

It's not that I didn't enjoy last year's National Champion run last year. Those were the best 3 weeks of 2005 for me (which is to say, I had a pretty shitty year for the most part).

But this year, anything respectable - Top 4 finish in the conference, winning record, tournament appearance - was okay with me. So a 2nd place finish, a win over Duke in Cameron and Tyler Hansborough turning into an absolute monster, any of which would be nice in a normal year, are made all the more satisfying. Anything less than a championship would have been a disappointment last year; a Sweet 16 finish this year would be a (almost) great ending to an only marginally less magical season.

That said, this year's Tar Heels are capable of making the Final Four, and if they do fall short, I'd be in a pissy mood for the following 24 hours. But let's worry about that later. The madness begins tomorrow for me.

Oh, and my brackets are going to take a hosing this year.


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