Good morning and greeting, March Madness fans. Well, it’s that time of year, when the NCAA college basketball tournament moves over to the forefront of American sports. It’s three weeks of the best in collegiate sports, with a spotlight on cinderella stories, fantastic finishes and according to the FBI, $2.5 billion illegally wagered on these highly contested contests.
As Paul Newman said in the ‘Color of Money,’ “Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.” However, when it comes to my betting strategy, I’ll go along with humorist Kin Hubbard, who once said, “The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.”
The term “March Madness” was brought into the American vernacular back in 1939 by Henry V. Porter, who used it to describe an Illinois high school basketball tournament. It has also been referred to as “The Big Dance,” a giant mambo contest with 68 teams vying for the ultimate prize, a national collegiate title and the right to cut down the nets.
And why is everybody so jacked up about these three weeks of hoops hysteria? In the words of former NBA G.M. Dick Vertleib, “Basketball is the second most exciting indoor sport, and the other one shouldn’t have spectators.” Amen.
What makes the tournament so exciting it’s that it is one and done. You lose and you’re going home. So you have schools from the smaller conferences going up against the major powerhouses, and as we have seen in the past, upsets are always on the menu. All the games are televised, so you can fill out you own brackets and watch as the field goes from 64, to 16, to the Final 4 and then the crowning of the eventual champion.
For the players, it’s what they have been striving for, the reason they go to college for one year, to win a national championship before they head off to the NBA and a million dollar payday. But there are some exceptions. Former NBA Coach Frank Layden asked a player who wasn’t reaching for the dream, “Son, what is it with you. Is it ignorance or apathy?” He replied, ‘Coach, I don’t know and I don’t care.”
From the casual fan to the hard-core basketball nut, the nation is hooked on bracketology. As a result of this obsession, American businesses lose an estimated $1.2 billion in worker productivity during the NCAA tournament as fans try to pick winners. But to quote my rabbi, “Forget the tournament. Bet on yourself instead.” As for myself, I have the same chance of picking the winners of the tournament brackets whether I fill them out or not.
Now, the odds of picking a perfect bracket randomly are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 1, or more than nine quintillion to one. Or in the words of Jim Carrey,’ “So, you’re saying there is a chance.” It seems you would have a better chance of being hit by a meteor, struck by lightning or getting an Anthem Blue Cross representative on the phone.
So courtesy of www.washingtontimes.com, here are a few fun facts you may not have known about “March Madness.”
In 1994, before Monica Lewinsky was old enough to down a glass of Manischewitz, Bill Clinton became the first sitting president to attend an NCAA tournament game, watching his Arkansas Razorbacks beat the Michigan Wolverines to get to the Final Four. He also attended the championship game, where Arkansas defeated Duke and later partied down with the Razorback cheerleaders.
Back in 1973, the championship game went viral as it was broadcast for the first time in prime time. With his pals, the Grateful Dead looking on, the big redhead, center Bill Walton, put on a fantastic show, hitting 21 of 22 shots and scoring 44 points in leading the UCLA over the Memphis State.
As Walton said later, “The Grateful Dead, they’re my best friends. Their message of hope, peace, love, teamwork, creativity, imagination, the dance, the vision, the purpose, the passion, all the things I believe makes me the luckiest Deadhead in the world. And nobody runs the pick and roll better.”
With the win, it was all sunshine and daydreams in Southern Cal. And that winning tradition was established by Coach John Wooden’s, the ‘Wizard of Westwood’, whose UCLA Bruins dynasty defined college basketball for more than a decade. Under Wooden, UCLA won ten national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row starting in the early 60′s. That’s what you call the pyramid of success.
Moving along, the University of Connecticut is the only Division I school in history to win the men’s and women’s basketball championship in the same year. Catholic universities have won the national championship eight times. They includes Holy Cross, LaSalle, the University of San Francisco, Loyola of Chicago, Marquette, Georgetown and Villanova. Yeshiva is still looking for their first title.
So as the tournament gets underway this week you’re probably wondering about my Final Four picks. Well, since I’m really an NBA guy, I’m going to turn this space over to my esteemed colleague Dr. Michael Schur, who in his heyday claims to have blocked one of Michael Jordan’s, er Dean Smith’s jumpers during an intramural game in the Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill.
In his words, “Geoffrey, I’d first like to thank our sponsor, Sherman’s Deli, with two convenient locations in the Palm Springs area. My Final Four picks are Florida, Duke, Villanova and Arizona. As for the 2014 NCAA champions, while teams may be able to stop Duke’s super frosh Jabari Parker, the somewhat overlooked Mr. Rodney Hood, who may be the most unsung NBA ready player in the tournament will lead the Blue Devils to the promised land and it will be Mike Krzyzewski Blue Devils cutting down the nets at the AT & T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on April 7.”
So for those of you who like shooting colorful sunrises and sunsets, it’s wait till next fall, as the skies have gone silent over the last month. So today we are heading back to the evening of November 10, when the clouds were swirling and twirling and the pelicans were in full formation mode. Just an outstanding digital night of flight along the edge of the continent.
On to some late night humor. “The crisis in Ukraine still has people worried. Today John McCain led a group of senators there to get a firsthand look. When they landed, McCain said, “This is a disaster, these people are living like animals!” And then someone said, “We have a layover — this is LaGuardia Airport.” The College Board says it’s revamping the SAT to focus more on what students will need in college. In fact, the SAT is now just one question: ‘How much money do your parents have?’” –Jimmy Fallon
“It’s not such a great day for a family in Florida recovering after eating steak laced with LSD. About halfway through dinner they realized there was a problem when someone asked for a side of mashed potatoes, and that someone was the steak. A family in Oregon called 911 after they were trapped in a bedroom by their cat. I’ll say it again. They were trapped in their bedroom by their cat. Apparently the cat held the family hostage until its demands were met. Its demands were food and sleep.” – Craig Ferguson
“A family called the police because their cat cornered them in a bedroom. They would’ve climbed out the window but their hamster was blocking the way. fal Yesterday Edward Snowden urged technology companies to improve their encryption techniques in order to prevent hacking. Then he said, “But not right away. I’m still using Obama’s Netflix password to watch ‘House of Cards’.” – Jimmy Fallon
“Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law is on trial right now. He produced all of al-Qaida’s videos. Not only is he on trial but he would like to let you know that the first season is available on Netflix. President Obama’s wife Michelle has highlighted her hair. She has blond highlights in her hair. And those will probably be the only highlights of his second term. – David Letterman
So enjoy the last few days of winter. We’ll catch you being a magician with the ball and being the greatest scorer in college basketball history. Aloha, mahalo and later, Pistol Pete Maravich fans.