Missing the Madness

Have you noticed I haven’t been posting anything about the NCAA basketball tournament?  Me too.  That’s because I haven’t been watching.  I know, I know.  The very thought makes me want to vomit.  I mean this year there’s been so many upsets, so many buzzer beaters, and so many great stories, and I’ve missed almost all of them.  I used to look forward to March Madness every single year.  I would host a party on selection sunday and I would recruit people for my pool, then skip classes to watch the games.  This year, it all slipped away from me.  And this is how:

Play-in rounds: As much as the NCAA would like to call this round 1, it was not.  And I did not watch.

Day 1 of Round 1: I started off strong, watched most of the early morning games at my apartment before going into work and keeping a firm eye on the ESPN scorebox.

Day 2 of Round 1: I had a speaking engagement in Sacramento.  I had to leave by 7 and I wouldn’t be home until 5.  I listened to as much as I could on the radio.  The toll booth guy at the parking garage even smiled at me because I had the Texas game on full blast when I pulled through.

Day 1 of Round 2: I actually caught some of the games this time, on TV even (gasp).  But a friend was visiting me from out of town that night so I did spend some of the day at the laundromat and grocery store in preparation.

Day 2 of Round 2: My out of town friend was here.  I knew she didn’t care about sports so like any good hostess, I didn’t make her watch it.  Instead, we went shopping in Rockridge then went to a bar—which just so happened to have the games on.  I got to see almost half of two games.  Rebel.

Then there was a lull, like there always is after those first four delightful days.  I used to call this my recharge zone.  It meant that there was a gap in the tournament schedule and it gave me time to stop drinking alcohol, get some sleep and return all those non-basketball related calls, voicemails and emails that I had ignored for the first four days.  

Sweet 16 Day 1: I frickin missed the portal out of my recharge zone.  By the time I realized that the games were back on, I had missed most of them.

Sweet 16 Day 2: Left to go to a bachelorette party in Guerneville.  Clearly, no time was made for basketball.

Elite 8 Day 1: See above

Elite 8 Day 2: See above

For the record, I will be in Denver, for work the night the final four teams play.  

I plan to take my revenge on the lame version of myself on April 4 by doing it up, watching the championship at a bar, with a good beer and some good friends, like it should be done.  I’m also putting my money on the Program at this point.  And I’m not just saying that because I won my very first basketball pool in 1999 when UConn beat Duke.  I’m saying it because despite the big east bust this year, I still think they were the best conference and it’s only natural that one of their teams would come out on top.  Though arguably, I’m rooting for the other 3 more…maybe  

VCU/Butler: Look at their seeding?!  I know that “underdog” might not apply to Butler after last year, but tough seeding makes for a tough road and I give them props for making it this far.  Now only one will make it through the weekend, but wouldn’t it be cool if a mid-major won this year after the crazy tournament we’ve had?  

Kentucky: Everyone who knows me knows this story.  Even though my time spent waitressing and bartending in College Park allowed me to meet into my athletic idols (can we say BJ Surhoff, Gary Williams and Johnny Unitas?), it was my encounter with Tubby Smith that really (strangely) made me a Kentucky fan.  In 2002 when I was in Atlanta for the final four and championship games, Maryland had just won the whole thing.  Everyone was celebrating and Atlanta was renamed Garyland on every billboard as far as the eye could see.  It was the most amazing experience.  The next afternoon, I went to the airport, checked in and got on one of those trams to take you to terminals and such.  Low and behold, Tubby Smith was sitting across from me.  I kept staring at him, too shy to say anything.  Finally, just before the tram stopped, I walked up to him and said something stupid like, “Did you enjoy the tournament?”  And he saw my Maryland shirt and said that he did, that it was a really great year and that the Terps and Gary Williams deserve all the credit in the world for taking the championship.  I think he talked about Gary some more, said some really nice things about him.  I told him that I watched the sweet sixteen game when the Terps eliminated Kentucky and I think I apologized.  Tubby waved his hand in the air and told me not to worry about things like that.  That there are times when programs are bad and times when they are good and times when they are good and just aren’t good enough, and soon enough, Kentucky will get their turn to prove that they’re the best.  It just wasn’t this year, because Maryland was the better team.  I remember thinking how zen about it he was.  I took that philosophy with me and I incorporate it into my fan persona.  And the Terps were never as good as they were that year, and that was almost a decade ago.  Who knows if they’ll ever do that again.  I suppose I’m just glad I was there.  

And I followed Tubby and Kentucky for a while until they fired him and he went to Minnesota.  I hated Kentucky for a while for turning its back on him.  But then I thought about what Tubby would say to that, and I tried to calm myself.  I think Tubby would be happy if Kentucky won a championship this year, with or without him.  And so would I.

So who am I rooting for?  That’s easy—whoever plays the best.  I want a good game and I want the best team to win.  I’m so afraid that if VCU or Butler wins people won’t give them credit when credit is due.  Look at who they each eliminated.  I love Butler so much for eliminating Duke, I can’t even express it.  They played an amazing game, flawless almost.  And VCU, as an 11 seed, they had a play-in game.  Some people didn’t have them winning that one.  Then for their first real game, most people didn’t have them winning against Georgetown…or Purdue.  They are really as Cinderella as they come.  

So with that, I close.  I can’t believe I missed most of this tournament.  I’ve been walking around like a zombie, with no purpose or direction for days now just knowing that I could have watched some of the best games in NCAA tournament history, and didn’t.  But I’m going to make up for it.  And I’ll make it up to you, blog readers.  Stay posted.

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