Perfect, just perfect

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Masha

Perfect. An impossible achievement, to be perfect. It’s something we all dream about; perfectionists can destroy their lives trying to be perfect. But we all try for it, working at being mistake-free and, as the dictionary says “entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings.” The perfect woman/man – doesn’t exist. The perfect career – doesn’t exist. The perfect trip – we’ve come close a couple of times, but there’s always something weird that happens to destroy it – mostly at airports. The perfect car – doesn’t exist; there’s always those strange little gremlins that steal into the machinery and do something goofy.

So when you’re Geno Auriemma and your ladies basketball team comes to you at the beginning of the year and say they want to strive for a perfect season, you laugh. You marvel at the innocence of late teenagers/early twenty-somethings who believe that it’s a reasonable goal. You tell them it’s unreasonable. You might even give them a hard time about it – because sometimes that’s what coaches do – they give you a hard time to see if you can rise to the occasion. But you’re Geno – you shake your head and do what you’ve always done – you coach for perfection. You yell at them if they do something stupid – even if it’s at the end of a game where you’re ahead 20 points, you yell. Because that’s what you do.

Boy, did UConn respond last night. They responded to all the yelling. They responded to their coach. After an undefeated regular season, the UConn Huskies rolled through the ladies tournament like a house on fire. They were matched by Notre Dame, another undefeated team. And in one of the most compelling match-ups in the ladies tournament final, we had two undefeated teams meeting each other. Someone was going to lose. Someone was going to reach the peak of the mountain, the unachievable – they were going to have a perfect season.

Just to make sure they put an exclamation mark on the perfect season, UConn blew Notre Dame out of the water. It wasn’t that the Fighting Irish played badly, although much like Kentucky the night before, many of the shots that had been falling all tournament were bouncing off the rim, narrow misses by the narrowest of margins, but misses nonetheless. The Irish looked outmatched. They lost to perfection.

So congratulations to Geno Auriemma, who, with the win, passed Pat Summitt in total wins. Pretty good for 29 years of coaching. Oh, and the men’s UConn team won too – they just weren’t perfect.

 

The madness has passed for another year…

 

Final Four, San Antonio 2004.

Final Four, San Antonio 2004.

Masha

I don’t know why I care. I don’t usually watch college basketball. I was never a big fan of basketball growing up – I was terrible playing the game, the Utah Utes were not a major force while I was at university, and the Utah Jazz had not become a reality during my childhood. We don’t watch pro basketball on a regular basis, partially for reasons Pat explained yesterday. So in terms of sports fandom, basketball just isn’t there for me.

But I do care. I love March Madness. I loved it even before Pat and I were invited to attend the Final Four in San Antonio many years ago. But that did it – attending the games live was an amazing experience and we were very lucky to be invited. The games were nail-biters. There were Cinderella teams that made an impact on the Final Four. All the excitement and drama of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was on display for everyone’s enjoyment. The hoopla surrounding the event shut down downtown San Antonio. The Riverwalk was full of jerseys and team mascots. It threw me over the line of sanity and brought me into full raging, rabid, bloodshot-eyed madness. I was the person you couldn’t call on Thursday – that’s right. I didn’t answer the phone because the games were on. I listened to the commentators. I cried when teams I picked won. I cried when teams I picked lost. I was mad; Mad Hatter, white-rabbit, over-the-top mad.

I dutifully fill out my bracket each year. I study the teams as though I’ve been watching the games all season. I base my decisions on all the noise coming from ESPN, FoxSports, and this year, NBC Sports Network. I study the injuries. I look at the coach’s records. I listen to their interviews. I listen to the players and watch their faces for any nerves. I predict Cinderella wins. I scribble in favorite’s losses. I build a bracket each year that I believe will reach perfection.

And I wait. I wait for the hammer to fall and crush my bracket to smithereens. And of course, I am rewarded with the arrival of the Mercers and North Dakota States. I watch as my bracket app fills with red rather than green. I watch my points and percentages go down. My PPR drops like a rock. And I marvel that at this tournament, in this setting, the little guy really can defeat the giant.

That’s what makes this tournament so riveting, even for those of us who are not invested in college basketball. The shockers. The incredible, last-second wins by a team who just barely made it into the dance and who should be down by 25 points to the big-budget, perfect-record team. It makes my heart warm that Underdog really does exist, at least in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

 

Blurred Bracket Lines

Unknown 

It has begun. My eyes are red and sandy from staring. My caloric intake is all substances within easy reach of the couch. My thumb is sore from switching back and forth between TNT and CBS. I’m sounding a bit like Charles Barkley. What does it all mean? March Madness is in full swing.

As I stare at my bracket, currently sitting at 99.8% and hanging on a win by Duke (not a guarantee from the way I’m seeing Mercer play…), the lines are blurry. Didn’t see Oklahoma coming, but called all the other upsets, so I’m feeling pretty cocky right now about my bracket – I just can’t see it very well! And as a sidebar, I’m beating Pat’s bracket pretty handily… just saying.

Pat

Yeah, she always kicks my butt on our brackets.  As much as I love March Madness, I just don’t watch much college basketball during the regular season.  So my bracket is based on who I like or who I want to win rather than who is really the best team.  But, from what I am seeing right now this is going to be a tournament of upsets.  WOW!