A historic day

Yesterday will stand forever as one of the most significant days in college basketball history.

On the hardwood, Memphis and Kansas won to complete the first ever Final Four field with all top seeds. Off it, the college basketball landscape arrived at another intersection that it had never before reached.

For as long as I can remember, the Final Four and national championship game have taken place on the same weekend as the beginning of the baseball season. And on the biggest day of all, the first Monday of April would transform itself gradually from the first day of spring sports to the last night of winter sports.

Not this year, though. The college basketball season lasts a week longer in 2008, meaning that baseball's arrival yesterday intersected with the last two regional finals. And as luck would have it, my Sunday was consumed almost entirely by the former instead of the latter.

Those of you who've read my work from its very beginning -- and especially those of you who listened to the now-resting-in-peace PhilliesCast -- know that in addition to having grown up in Washington, I've followed the Nationals since their arrival in D.C. three years ago.

You might have noticed that the Nationals played their home opener on ESPN last night, christening their very expensive new stadium in a part of the District that used to be anything but. President Bush threw the ceremonial first pitch coming just a few minutes after Jason Richards' desperation three-pointer hit the backboard to deny Davidson its biggest upset yet.

I was fortunate enough to be able to take in both plays from a seat in right field at Nationals Park, although the latter came through my ears on the radio. So I have no box scores, or videos, or anything like that from yesterday's games, because I left for the ballpark at around 3 and didn't get back until almost midnight.

I must admit to feeling a tinge of sadness when I realized that Kansas had escaped, though in all likelihood I would have also had mixed emotions had the shot gone in.

As extraordinary a run as Davidson has had, we are going to have a superb Final Four next week. As I said yesterday morning, these four teams -- North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis and UCLA -- are the four best in the nation, and have shown all year that they are in an elite class by themselves. That is the good news.

The bad news is that there are only three college basketball games left in the season, and only a few days remaining before we close the courts for the summer and head outside to pursue baseball or whatever else is going on in our lives.

Somewhere in the middle is the start of baseball season, a time of year that overlaps perfectly with college basketball not only in spring but in autumn as well. There are dreams to be had in both sports, of warm gyms in February and ballpark breezes in July.

And in both sports, there are signature moments. For every Ty Rogers buzzer-beater, there is Brett Myers' pennant-clinching strikeout last October or Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off home run last night.

For every fan who walks into the Palestra for the first time and is taken aback by the rows of banners in the rafters, there is a fan who walks through a turnstile on Pattison Avenue or South Capitol Street and is awestruck by the greenest grass on the earth.

So even though basketball season is coming to an end, let's try to have a little bit of optimism amidst today's overcast skies. And for those of you who are wondering, I enjoy watching the Phillies too. Quite a bit, in fact. I did the podcast last year for a reason.

(It helps that the Phillies are really good and the Nationals are really bad, no matter how much Potomac River spin they try to put on it.)

I also think Citizens Bank Park is a better stadium than Nationals Park, where the limestone is a bit too bland and the Capitol is visible from only a few sections of the upper deck. I'll take the brick and sweeping Center City vista here instead... though the chili half-smoke I had last night was really good.

Oh, and Michael Nutter throws a much better first pitch than President Bush.