Once again its time for that annual Rite of Spring—the NCAA Basketball Tournament! Yes, I know its called March Madness, but the Lovely Louise changed the name a couple of years ago and now I can’t stop calling it Mad Marchness.
Years ago, when I was still married, my wife and I would eagerly await the basketball tournament and agonize for hours about how best to fill out our brackets. My wife knew a lot about college basketball … and I mean a lot. It all started back in the 1980s, when we were living in Amherst, Massachusetts, and the bank was giving away free tickets to UMass basketball games because no one ever went. It was the first year of coach John Calipari, and if I remember correctly, UMass was ranked something like 297 out of 300 Division 1 programs.
Even a casual fan remembers what Coach Cal did with that program, and we became season ticket holders. That was when we both became avid college basketball fans, and the ride has been amazing. Even though she’s been gone over ten years, my ex-wife still e-mails me her brackets, and we compete long-distance for the best record. More often than not, she still beats me.
Enter the Lovely Louise. Louise knows nothing about basketball and doesn’t care. I know, I still read that sentence and ask myself, How can she not care? Despite that, Louise still fills out a bracket, and how she picks her winners still fascinates me. I won’t give you her entire bracket, but I will share with you a few of her current picks and why she picked them. I swear this is all true.
Every team in Florida because that’s where we live in the winter.
Kansas and Kansas St.—Go Dorothy!
Kentucky — she loves fried chicken
Buffalo — because they have wings
Miami — Because of the TV show Miami Vice
Georgia St. — our son is named George
Texas — Because she likes Tex/Mex food
Ohio St. — She loves the song “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills and Nash
Gonzaga — because she likes cheese (I don’t have the heart to tell her it’s Gorgonzola)
Texas A&M — because she likes A & M Root Beer. What can I say; she doesn’t realize it’s A&W Root Beer
North Carolina — because our other son, Alex, lives in Raleigh
Alabama — because they have alligators and Louise loves alligators (Don’t tell her about the Florida Gators; you’ll just confuse her.)
Wichita St. — Louise likes witches
Arkansas — Alex was born in Arkansas
Purdue — Why? Because of chicken, of course!
Clemson — because it sounds like clementines, and she loves oranges
Duke — Because of the Duke of Windsor, her favorite Royal. Did I mention Louise is British?
Xavier — she picked Xavier to go to the Final Four because she likes writing X’s
Just as an aside, Louise has Duke winning the tournament. Why? In the space where you write in the winner, Louise wrote “Queen of England’s Chappie.” Along the way to the championship she wrote things like “Royalty,” “Royal Blood Wins" and “House of Windsor.” Did I mention she plastered the British flag all over my new truck? She has also declared that our homes are British territory. I have to admit, however, that Duke is never a bad pick.
One year she picked her teams because of their names: Louisville for Louise, Georgetown for our son George, etc. She usually picks Butler because they have butlers in England. She picks teams because she’s visited their state. I’m sure she has other methods, but I don’t have the need to know.
I know a fair amount about college basketball. I study the records and power ratings, and I listen to the experts. And yet with all that knowledge I’ve got, by the end of the second round Louise and I are usually within two games of each other. Her system falls apart by the third round, but I still get pissed off after the first two.
Anyway, this year I’m not doing any research or listening to any experts. I’m going with my gut and just filling it all out. We’ll have to see if this will be a year of fame or shame. I just hope I can beat Louise.
I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Update: After the first round, I'm 23 - 9 and Louise is 22 - 10. This year she's going to have to call me "Daddy" . . .