Monday, March 24, 2014

Why I Love March Madness

Friday's post was swallowed up in the frenzy.  Little Cuter called and I asked if my gift package had arrived as scheduled on Saturday and she laughed and said "It's Friday, retired person!" and it really made no difference because there were 64 teams competing from Buffalo to San Diego and I was obsessed.

It began on Thursday morning and followed me through my dreams into pilates on Friday.  I crocheted and I stomped my feet and I encouraged and I wallowed and it was wonderful.  I love having my heartstrings pulled, and this time of year sees an abundance of plucking. 

There's a sense of history, not only from the pulled-from-the-archives films of 1970's era players, those slim, short-shorts wearing, now grey haired talking heads, but from seeing former players, like Rod Strickland, on the sidelines, coaching. 

I watched him on those old, heartbreaking DePaul teams, the ones Dr K and TBG and I were talking about over dinner, the ones that led you on through a perfect season, only to lose the last game, to Notre Dame, on my birthday, and then go out in the first round of the tournament.  Mark Aguirre, their star forward, he of swisheroo-another two announcing fame, wants to go back and coach the Blue Devils.  Dr K says he's quite open about wanting the job. 

I haven't seen De Paul play in years, maybe decades.  Still, I am concerned.  The love never dies.  So many pieces of my life come together over these three weeks; my massage therapist reminded me that Arizona's Sean Miller came to us from Xavier. As he scraped scar tissue we compared brackets.  Brother called and wondered if he still had time to win Warren Buffet's billion-dollars-for-a-perfect-bracket contest.  The checker at the grocery store asked my opinion.

There are life lessons played out on a major stage. After his #3 seed Blue Devils were upset by the #14 Mercer Bears, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski left his stunned players and entered the Mercer locker room.  He congratulated them on a game well played, and shared his admiration with the interviewers in the post-game media mash.  Coach K, as both TBG and Charles Barkley noted within minutes of one another (in that order, I might add), brings honor to the game of college basketball. 

The man has Coach as part of his name.  That says it all, I think.

There were more David and Goliath stories, like the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks over VCU in overtime, and there were the inevitable tear your hair out moments of missed free throws and an absence of boxing out behavior.  No one has a perfect bracket, not one out of more than eleven million brackets completed on ESPN's website.  Fans of Harvard can claim title to a second round game, despite the fact that the NCAA has deemed the play-in game to be the first round, bumping the rest of them up one. 

It doesn't sound right and I refuse to go along with it. 

That's the way the brackets are, for me, at least. I won an office pool with Jim Valvano's 1983 North Carolina State team, and every once in a while I win the family pool.  I've saved all our paper entries in a drawer in my newly organized library.  Taking pride of place, for a while, at least, will be my entry from this year.  I had Syracuse playing Arizona in the championship game.  Big Cuter loves to hate the Orangemen; their rivalry with Georgetown lives on in his Hoya heart despite the end of the Big East which spawned it.  I figured that everyone would choose Florida, and I looked out and saw that, at the end, my boy could share his parents' love for their fellow Tucsonans.

It didn't work out that way.  He called to give me grief for choosing his most despised team, but I had my answer at the ready.  I was just waiting for him to call me on it.

And that's why I love March Madness.

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