!http://active.typepad.com/photos/blogger_pics/shar.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://active.typepad.com/photos/blogger_pics/shar.jpg!I'll never forget the first midnight madness I ever attended. It was 1996. I was a junior at UC Berkeley, and all the buzz was about a skinny freshman from Georgia by the name of Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
The question on everybody's mind wasn't whether he would be a good player--that was obvious from the way he easily dunked over 7'0 senior center, Michael Stewart. But how many national championships he would help us capture.
He's better than Jason Kidd," said a nearby Oakland Tribune reporter. These would have been fighting words under any other circumstances. But midnight madness isn't just the official beginning of the NCAA basketball season; it's a night for lofty dreams and unrestrained optimism.
I worked for the athletic ticket office at the time and could see students setting up their sleeping bags outside Harmon Gymnasium days before the event. Flashlights and laptops became commonplace as students crammed for midterms in the frigid Northern California night. A literature professor of mine walked by and asked what band these kids were lining up for. "No band," I said. "Just a basketball game."
And not even a game at that. Midnight madness is more scrimmage and layup drills than anything else. Conceived some 37 years ago by University of Maryland head basketball coach Lefty Driesell to promote interest in his team, the event is little more than an open practice set to coincide with the NCAA-designated start of the college basketball season.
But the moment the arena goes dark and 8000 college students make the floor shake with their stomping feet at the thought of seeing their team for the first time, you realize nothing gets quite as loud, energetic, and hysterical as college basketball.
And it all starts on a Friday night in mid-October.
(Share your midnight madness memories in the comments below.)