Some thoughtful thoughts as I plunge headlong into this year's South by Southwest festival.
Sporting isn’t often the first thing that comes to mind as one journeys forth to the cultural din of SXSW. However, this year I’m considering similarities between two distinct worlds of March Madness, only one of which involves basketball. Obviously, SXSW and the NCAA’s Annual Platform for Really Good Beer Commercials occur simultaneously, but underneath that coincidence lies a number of oddly unifying factors. Each have an official selection process, although the real fun of SXSW are the innumerable and free unofficial shows attached to the festival like an iceberg’s bulk floating beneath the surface. Fans pore over venue and show listings, charting their daily course through music, food, and booze as fervently as those who fill out basketball tournament brackets making agonizing decisions along the way about whether the 8 or 9 seeded team will come through in the first round, with the office money pool at stake.
For the players, both hold an opportunity to make it to the big leagues--to get noticed above the noise and be drafted by a small market NBA franchise or a major label. But for most rockers and ballers alike it’s not as much a grab for glory as it is a chance to make much ado about having fun living in the moment, whether drunk on the camaraderie of hoops or Hornitos. Each has their Cinderella stories of plucky 16 seeds that make the hallowed Final Four, or nobody bands propelled to sleazy stardom by the right combination of talent, buzz, and posturing.
64 teams. 2,000 bands. OK, that last statistic throws off my game, but each event represents the pinnacle of zeal and fanaticism for music and sports in America. During March enthusiasm knows no bounds. Ultimately, in the Final Four there is only one champion crowned, one net cut down (or do all Final Four goers do that?), whereas one could argue that at SXSW everybody wins, at least until you find yourself back at work the Monday after sleep deprived, sick as a dog, with irreversible hearing loss.