Hope Springs Eternal

Wrigley Field, June 2013

Wrigley Field, June 2013

Pat

I do very much love this time of year. We have the NCAA basketball tournaments wrapping up with the final four. Everybody’s brackets are busted, you know they always are. That’s what makes the tournament so great. It is always unpredictable and that is why we like to try to predict it. My wife is killing me on her brackets as usual. I am always all logical about my picks and that never works.

But the most wonderful thing about this time of year is the opening of Major League Baseball. Everybody is even and we start the long journey which is the MLB season. You can talk to fans of every team in baseball that can tell you why their team is going to do it this year. As they say, hope springs eternal. And it does for most baseball fans who, even if they may not pick the Cubs to win it all this year, are hoping for a much improved team moving towards a winning season so that sometime soon they can pick their team to win it all. The season is so long that you can probably name fifteen or more teams that you like to go to the World Series. That’s why the Cardinals eleven Championships since 1900 is the most in the National League. Once a decade average doesn’t sound that successful but it truly is.

I must admit there is one thing that has changed in April that I wish wouldn’t have and that is the NFL Draft. They have moved it about thirty days later into May. I guess I can wait but  I always looked forward to it just after the opening of Major League Baseball.

Masha

If you’ve been reading this blog for any time at all, you know that Pat is a Cardinals fan and I am a Cub fan. Despite attempts at breaking away from the Cubs and embracing some other team (Rockies have been the most recent attempt), I still remain a Cub fan. And it’s a direct reflection of the title for today’s blog. Hope springs eternal. Much like walking away from a slot machine that hits big for the person right after you, walking away from the Cubs now seems like a bad idea. New owners, Theo Epstein’s magic, and a rebuilding farm system all contribute to a team on Opening Day that’s dramatically improved. Oh, I know, they still lost. But they looked better. Really, they did. Go Cubs. *sigh*

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!