The whole international pandemic thing that’s going down forced the 2020 March Madness to be cancelled. Or so you thought.
The NCAA is skipping this year’s tournament at all levels, but /r/CollegeBasketball has sponsored its own alternative Men’s Division I tournament: Reddit March Madness. Streamed exclusively on YouTube and executed with a college basketball video game from almost 15 years ago, this year’s March Madness is sure to be unpredictable and full of really dumb turnovers.
Nothing But Nylon is providing the exclusive* coverage of the event from the bedroom of our headquarters. Don’t miss any of the real* quotes and bone-breaking analysis that you’ll only find here because of how exclusive* this content is.
* = this means you can’t sue me
Reddit March Madness Final Four Players and Coaches Impact Young Lives
To give the illusion that the NCAA cares about academics, it sent the players and coaches of the four Reddit March Madness Final Four participants to Atlanta schools to spend time with and influence children, presumably positively.
West Virginia, Gonzaga, Seton Hall and BYU will play in the Reddit March Madness Final Four soon, but first, they all hung out with little kids, to varying degrees of success, in the city where one of them will be crowned national champion.
Gonzaga head coach and Fairy Godmother Mark Few was the star of the show, accruing countless high fives, hugs and opportunities to color. His connection with the children was second to none as his maternity instincts kicked in.
Within minutes, Few was checking to make sure no one was hungry, telling kids to put on a jacket because it’s cold, and checking if the kids had completely their work or not.
“You’re doing your homework, right?” he asked Joey Gordita, ruffling his hair as the kid smiled and said yes with a laugh. “Good. If you want to be a Zag some day, you have to do your homework. Your third grade transcript is important when you apply to Gonzaga.”
As a whole, the Gonzaga team, which will play No. 3 seed Seton Hall in the Final Four, was fantastic with the students. No one was better than Will Graves.
“Oh, Sandra, stop it, you’re making me blush!” Graves said to Sandra Harris, a second grader who, after getting to know Graves better, complimented him on his ability to connect with others in a genuine and non-superficial way. “You’re always so sweet. Thank you.”
Zags senior guard Ryan Woolridge came into the room wearing a beautiful, crisp and very regal official Nothing But Nylon Reddit March Madness Final Four shirt and reminded the kids that supporting the basketball community through the coronavirus crisis can be done through these shirts.
“These shirts are dope and saving lives,” he said, throwing up the deuces as freshman forward Drew Timme popped out from the crowd to take a pic for the Gram in the moment he posed.
“Your followers are gonna love it!” Timme said, giving the thumbs up before sitting back down with the children.
Gonzaga Athletics Communications Director Jeramous Sustainous stepped in front of Woolridge to fix his statement.
“What Ryan meant to say was that you can help the basketball community affected by COVID-19 through proceeds raised by the sale of this dope-ass shirt,” Sustainous explained. “Batteries not included.”
The vibe when West Virginia, which is set to take on No. 5 seed BYU in the Final Four, controlled the classroom was a bit different. Things got a bit more … unrefined.
“Your dads give you a beer yet?” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins asked a group of fifth graders, taking a sip of his whiskey, then lighting his cigar and puffing it out into the room.
All the kids shook their heads no, and their teacher, Mrs. Lopez-Hernandez-Gomez, told Huggins to please not smoke in the classroom.
“Pansies,” Huggins said, shaking his head, putting his cigar out on her desk, getting up and leaving. “The wussification of America is alive and well. I’m done.”
The atmosphere took an information turn when BYU was with the kids. BYU head coach Tom Riddle was very interested in the students’ family lineages.
“Hey there, little guy,” Riddle said, approaching “Tiny” Johnny Smith, a very small kindergartner. “Do you know what a muggle is?”
When Smith shook his head no, Riddle pulled out Eugenics: A Child’s Guide to Cleansing from his cloak and began showing the picture-based children’s book to the boy. Within minutes, Smith took the book for himself to finish on the other side of the room.
“Death to all muggles,” Riddle muttered under his breath as Smith walked away, his eyes going dark as a devious grin expanded across his translucent face.
BYU senior guard Draco “TJ Haws” Malfoy, who has been a big part of why the Cougars are in the Final Four, was inspired by how he saw his coach interact with the kids, and he tried to help them in similar ways.
“What sound does our favorite animal the snake make?” Malfoy inquired the class of kindergartners, bending his knees and spreading his arms wide in a goofy way to keep the students engaged.
In unison, the children hissed with Malfoy, and he stood up asking them another important question.
“And what do snakes hate more than anything?” he quizzed them.
“MUGGLES!” they all sang together, merrily.
“Mm, yes, good,” Malfoy said to himself, deviously. “Let the hate flow through you.”
Seton Hall, participating in its second Final Four ever, made sure to bring valuable lessons native to New Jersey with it to the classroom. Even though Atlanta and New Jersey are quite different culturally, a lot of the same principles can be applied to both areas, Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard told me.
“Jersey toughness can help people all across the country and world,” Willard explained. “That’s why all of our players have been spending one-on-one time with the kids to break down the most effective and efficient insults you can make about someone else’s mother that are more likely to get someone to back down. It’s a way to avoid violence while still teaching them how to protect themselves.”
It isn’t always possible to avoid violence, though, so that’s where Seton Hall senior guard Myles Powell came in. He could be seen showing kids how to protect themselves with a simple pocketknife. He displayed the proper footwork, stance and moves for stabbing, giving visual demonstrations, pretending an assailant was in front of him and he had a tool to defend himself handy, then turning to the kids to try themselves.
“Remember, kids, it’s stab, stab, kick, run, in that order,” he said, asking for them to repeat those steps and act them out simultaneously. “Stab, stab, kick run. Stab, stab, kick, run. Stab, stab, kick, run.”
Seton Hall junior forward Sandro Mamukelashvili got a kick out of the number of students in Georgia who didn’t know that the other Georgia exists.
“You’re from Georgia?” first grader Hailey Ukelele asked Mamukelashvili, having her mind blown when he smiled and said yes in an accent much different than hers. “But you sound funny. You don’t sound like me, and I’m from Georgia.”
He explained to her that there is another Georgia, a country, on the other side of the world, pointing it out on the map. Ukelele’s face light up with the new knowledge, announcing that she wants to go to the other Georgia and see what “those Georgians are all about,” and the beauty of a child’s genuine wonder pulled at the heartstrings of everyone in the room.
“This is what we do it for,” Mamukelashvili said later, a tear coming to his eye. “Emancipate the proletariat.”
Be sure to follow along with Nothing But Nylon’s comprehensively exclusive* coverage of the 2020 Reddit March Madness.
Part of the proceeds from the sale of each #RedditMarchMadness t-shirt will go toward helping those in the basketball community affected by COVID-19. We will be partnering with non-profits like the Give and Go Foundation on the effort. If you know of a worthy group that could use some extra funds, please reach out.