What is a cobra without it's hood, or a zebra without its stripes? They're just not the same, even if they still look the part. By the same logic, what is TD Garden without its venom or fangs, a.k.a. the 23 championship banners hanging from the rafters?
Well, get used to it, because it's a reality for the next few days. With the Garden serving as the host site of the East Regionals of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the oft-criticized governing body of collegiate sports has put its foot down. No individualism whatsoever, it says. If it's unique, it has to go. Even banners? Even banners.
Per association policy, the NCAA requests that arenas remove their banners or excessive signage in order to make the venues in which their events are held uniform. In the case of TD Garden, that included taking down all 17 championship banners of the Boston Celtics, the six of the Bruins and the retired numbers of both esteemed franchises. All gone, for now anyway.
Let's give credit where credit is due. The Celtics and Bruins played nice with the unreasonable bunch and took down the banners. They've actually come up with a cool idea, too, putting the banners on display at a local Salvation Army and giving fans the choice to decide where the two most recent banners will go during their brief vacation. Kudos, C's and B's.
As for the policy itself, it is moronic at best and a complete embarrassment at worst. By making the Garden strip itself of its prized possessions, the NCAA is canceling out the reason for holding games in different cities. If they're looking for bland, just hold all games in high school gyms.
Boston is about as unique as it gets for a sports town, and the banners are certainly part of it. When people flock to TD Garden, they want to see the fruits of their favorite team's labors. The same goes for the young players who get the not-so-frequent opportunity to play there.
"A little bit," said Ohio State sophomore guard Aaron Craft when asked if playing in the Garden without the banners takes away from the wow factor. "You always like going to the gyms and looking up and seeing the history that's in the gym. But I think if you take a step back, you still understand it's the same arena. It's still the same place where so many great games took place and great basketball teams have played. So it takes away a little bit, but at the same time, you're still in the same arena and you're still around the same people that they were."
[Note: It's actually not the same building the great Celtics teams of old made memories in. The old Boston Garden was torn down in 1997, and the FleetCenter -- now TD Garden -- opened in 1995.]
But it doesn't end there. Upon arriving at the Garden to pick up my credential for the tournament, I grabbed a bottled drink and headed out to the court. I was stopped by a security guard, who told me that per NCAA policy, all drinks had to be in cups ... cups with NCAA logos on them.
Really? Yes, really. The NCAA is regulating the logos on our favorite soft drinks now, too.
That's ridiculous, isn't it? And where will they draw the line? It's this kind of overregulation that is running our country into the ground. And it's also playing a part in ruining the college sports world, too. While regulations are a part of life, and some are good, having too many creates contempt.
Is it really necessary to make me pour my labeled bottle into an NCAA cup? And is it necessary to remove banners (that nobody will see on TV) to stifle uniquity? Apparently so, says the NCAA.
The Orwellian ways of the NCAA won't (or shouldn't) play a role in the actual three tournament games being played in Boston this weekend, and they are shaping up to be good ones. But maybe think about the kind of association you are supporting the next time you pay to go to an NCAA sanctioned event. Overregulation can kill countries, and it can certainly kill sports, too.