When we talk about bubble watching, we’re usually talking about another college sport: basketball. The Division I tournament’s bubble watch draws a lot of interest and controversy. It leads up to the great college sporting event of the year: March Madness. The popularity of Division III swimming’s bubble watch is nothing in comparison, but IS better.
With basketball, we have to make the argument on worthiness based on RPI, SOS, big wins, etc. While some of these are objective measures, it comes down to the subjective “eye test”. With swimming, we have something much more objective and much better: times! We don’t have to ponder which backstroker is more worthy, we can simply look at their times to decide.
I’ve been on the bubble. I know what this is like. It’s hell. You learn really quickly that with IE, the F5 key refreshes the page. I can’t count the number of time Mike and I did this while checking for 200 backstroke results around the country. Every conference. Every last chance meet. I was lucky for a couple of reasons. 1) I got in (18th of 18 guys taken) and 2) The 200 backstroke isn’t a popular time trial event. We really only had to check event results.
This year we added another layer to the selection process with the addition of 16 relays being taken. This makes bubble watching for relays that much easier. However, it makes watching for individuals more difficult since the rules got more complicated. Overall, more people will be at the meet, so it’s a win for D3 swimming. It may, however, take a few years off those swimmers (and coaches) who must scan through every result they can find to see if they should continue to practice or not.
For those of you swimmers, or coaches with swimmers, on the bubble, good luck. I won’t look down on you for cheering for teams/individuals to go slower (as long as you’re not there in person). I will understand that sleep will be tough to come by and once you do close your eyes, you’ll see live results flashing in front of you. If you make it, it will be pure elation. Good job! If you don’t, hopefully you can say you did the best you could and let the pieces fall where they may.