Thursday, March 26, 2009


Now it starts to get fun.

The Sweet 16 round starts tonight – 8 games in 2 days – and our own University of Connecticut Huskies play in the first game.

I really love the Madness of March. It’s a beautiful, pure, perfect tournament. There are no rounds, there are no wild cards, there are no A groups or B pools. March Madness is single-elimination. You win, you advance. You lose, you go home. One team and one team only goes 6-0.

And for me, it’s all about the hoops, and only about the hoops.

Although I’m pulling like crazy for my UConn Huskies to prevail over the Boilermakers (puh-lease) of Purdue, I never join March Madness pools, not anymore. I did join one, once, in 1999. That year, UConn made it to the Final Four, and then the final two. The game was on Monday night – coincidentally, The Dowd’s birthday – and he joined Billy and me – all 3 of us UConn grads – at our house in Fairfield, as did MB, although she and The Dowd were still years away from being the sassy, fabulous, long-time item they’ve become.

UConn vs. Duke. It was an incredible game, and UConn did what Khalid El Amin predicted they would do: they shocked the world, and they won.

We drank Champagne and sang and danced and stayed up really really late, and in the morning I dragged my sorry ass out of bed, walked to the train station, and got on a train to New York.

As I got close to the City I called my assistant to say I’d be, um, really late. She said, “Bill just called; he said the paper’s sending him to the airport to cover the team coming home.” It was like a scene from a movie: I took the phone away from my ear, everything got quiet, and I let out a long, loud, one-syllabled bellow from the depths of my being, which echoed throughout every car of the Metro-North train: Nnnnnnoooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

I should have told my boss Deborah if UConn won, I wouldn’t be in. I should have called in sick. I should have done anything I could to be in the car with Bill on the way to Hartford to greet the plane, instead of being on a godforsaken commuter train to a godforsaken corporate job in New York City.

But the worst thing? About the whole day? When I got to work, I discovered who’d won the pool: my colleague and friend Georgiana. Who I really liked. And who had chosen Duke to win. “But, but, but, but,” I articulated, “she chose Duke! She was wrong!” “Yeah, but she had enough points from the earlier rounds blah blah blah.” Blah blah my ass. I was really mad. I’m still really mad. If you can win an NCAA pool even if you choose the losing teamespecially if that losing team is Duke – and especially if the winning team is UConn – well, that’s just crap. I don’t care how many Gonzagas and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers you get right. You need to pick the winner. In my world, you do. So I swore off NCAA pools forever, then and there.

Now I torment my friends with my tragic bracket tale of woe every year instead………

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In 2004, when the UConn men's and women's team were the first – and, so far, only – men's and women's teams to win the NCAA Division 1 tournament in the same year, we were in San Diego. Jacquie is not the world's most, ahem, enthusiastic college basketball fan, and we tormented her with incessant game-watching, day after day after day. And the games were on at the kids' bedtime! Every night! Yippee! Actually, we went out to a bar a couple of nights, to give poor Jacqueline and her poor kids a break from all the screaming. We were at their house when the UConn men beat Georgia Tech to win it all, though.
Emeka Okafor was a stud that night.

Hmmmm. Some things, apparently, never change.

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And now it's 2009 and we're back living in Connecticut, of all things, and UConn actually has a chance – not a huge one, mind you, with the crumbs from Louisville and Pitt and North Carolina (sorry, Colleen) lurking out there – but a chance nonetheless – to go all the way and win the whole enchilada again.

It's just so exciting. And nerve-wracking. And excruciating. And exhilarating.

It's Madness.


Deb Rox said...

sports sports sports sports hoop sports sports Emeka Okafor


yeah, it's all about the hoops, yeah right.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Basketball.... okay, what can I say about basketball?


I guess I have no comment in my comment. I do not love basketball. But I do love you, tiger tweetie. And I'll always be an honorary huskie fan, unless someone makes me a better offer.


Hsin-Yi said...

Emeka, handsome, well spoken, great athlete, and how UConn won my heart (since I'm from NYC).

Did I mention handsome?

Anonymous said...

Go Syracuse!!!!

and the women--Maryland Terps

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Ah yes, my late step dad and mom love the college basketball. I suppose I caught a few glimpses way back when, when still living with them. But that, my friends, was LONG ago. I'm now happily oblivious all March long.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Ha. But your mom is not. Syracuse and Maryland my ass. Them's fighting words.


Anonymous said...

I have trouble with basketball - along with Jacquie's crickets, the squeaking of the shoes drives me totally insane.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Yeah, I hear that a lot -- that the squeeking of the basketball shoes on the floor is a specific and particular slice of hell for lots of peeps.

But Jacquie? And her crickets? My sister Jacqueline was the first one to call when UConn won in 1999. We kept her message on our machine for ages. She is *so* secretly a huge Huskies Hoops fan. She just doesn't know it yet.


Springer Kneeblood said...

You're talking about basketball. I've never understood why people talk about basketball. But I like some people who talk about basketball anyway. Not all of them, mind you, but some of them. Fortunately for me, the bloggeristas on this blog are among them.

Anonymous said...

if we didn't have the Madness, I'm not sure there would be a way to survive March in Central PA. Granted, Penn State got screwed out of their NCAA bid, but I just moved on to the joy of filling out my brackets and hoping for an occasional Cinderella story. Memphis losing last night ends any chance of a $15 pool win, but I don't's an easy trade-off for several days of basketball starting at noon and ending at bedtime. Oh how I LOVE the Madness!

NucMEd is Hot said...

As long as UNC doesn't win, I can root for anyone. Now I will say that I strongly root for the Big 12, and sadly that means our destiny will be tomorrow, when MU and UConn go at it. I promise not to come gloat if we win!

Next year I'm sending you a bracket like ours. Really Big!!!

Anonymous said...

Go Tarheels!

The Other Meg said...

Why is no one talking about Villanova? The highlight of my college career was being at Nova when they beat G'town for the NCAA championship in 1985. Duane McLane; Gary McLean; Harold Presley; Harold Jensen and Easy Ed Pinckney (who would become a future Celtic and who is now a former Celtic. Time passes).
And, finally, I don't know you, Dorothea (though I love your name), but March Madness is the only thing that helps us survive winter in New Hampshire, too. I feel your pain.