The NCAA Will Not Stand for Your Mirth

TD Garden bannersThe championship banners going up at the Kroc Center. (Photo courtesy of TD Garden.)

I always imagine the people who run the NCAA to be joyless drones — the types who go around crushing butterflies just for the fun of it. The latest evidence of this can be found this weekend at the TD Garden. In preparation for the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds being played there, the college sports bureaucracy par excellence has mandated that the arena remove the Bruins and Celtics’ championship banners. Basically, the Garden has to be scrubbed of any hint of Bruin or Celticness to conform with the “NCAA brand.” The four college teams gathered in Boston won’t even be allowed to play on the famous Boston parquet this weekend. Instead, the NCAA has trucked in its own court. Why? I dunno, maybe NCAA President Mark Emmert thinks non-conventional wood patterns will corrupt the kids into thinking differently. Next thing you know, they’ll want to dress different or do dirty dancing or something.

But really, this has to do with branding and uniformity. Every arena hosting the tournament has to look the same. The NCAA is firmly committed to making as much money possible off this tournament while ensuring that the actual athletes on the floor aren’t polluted by even the sideways suggestion that they ought to be compensated for their exceptional talents. (Paying athletes to appear on television? Goodness gracious, how that will interfere with their studies!) As WEEI Celtics writer (and friend of Boston magazine) Paul Flannery pointed out on Twitter yesterday, “Don’t let the kids see the banners, they might want to play here for money some day.”

According to the TD Garden Director of Public Relations Tricia McCorkle, it took the Garden’s bull gang about two hours to get all the banners down, and it will take another three-to-four hours to get them back up. “We’re making lemonade,” she says, explaining that the teams’ 23 championship banners have been temporarily moved — as part of so-called Operation Rafter Relocation —to the gym at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Corps Community Center in Dorchester, for all to see and (gasp, NCAA) even play under. The Garden has also launched a social media campaign, where fans can lobby to have the Celtics and Bruins’ two most recent banners brought to them. Today, the banners go to Norwood High (Matt Brown, a paralyzed hockey player at the school, lobbied for them on his Facebook page), and tomorrow they’ll head to Children’s Hospital. There’s one more visit up for grabs, so folks can go to or tweet @tdgarden with the hashtag, #mybannerdayis, to make their case.

Maybe the NCAA could learn something from the folks at the TD Garden. Like, you know, sometimes it’s Ok to have fun.


UPDATE: Apparently there is a parquet floor at the Garden for the NCAA tournament. Greg Shaheen, an Interim Executive Vice-President at the NCAA, emailed to explain that the last time the NCAA tournament was in town and brought in its own generic floor, he caught all sorts of grief from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan over the lack of parquet. “Bob Ryan personally impressed upon me the importance of getting this right,” he wrote. So this time, the NCAA brought in the same generic floor (with the NCAA logos and coloring), with one exception: the hardwood is parquet style. Here’s a picture. It may strike some (including me) as a bit silly that they went to the trouble of bringing in a different parquet floor than the perfectly good one the Garden had sitting right there, but hey, credit where credit’s due. This is something. “We’re excited to be in Boston,” Shaheen wrote, “Hopefully, this reply demonstrates we might just get it a bit more than people think—and at least more than we once did.”