Final Four: Bonnie & Tide, Jack & Brutus (Not Really)

“And tell me again about the man who went insane.”
-Shinedown, “Left Out”

It’s the most wonderful… I’m not going to finish that sentence, Christmas is pretty wonderful… time of the year. Shoot, I did it anyway.

As I noted in January, I’m a spoiled college football fan. I have connections to both Alabama and Ohio State. The former is where I went to grad school and the latter is where I fell in love with a community as a child. Fittingly, both schools are two-seeds on opposite sides of the NCAA Tournament bracket this season.

I cheer for six universities in college basketball. With the addition of Georgetown and St. Bonaventure making the tournament, I’m preparing myself for a very anxious weekend. At least both New Mexico and New Mexico State had pathetic and disappointing seasons, so I don’t have to stress over anything in the Land of Enchantment. Well, except for the state itself.

I love the stress. Perhaps I should start searching for other schools to cheer for in their respective dominance. Oregon track, USC water polo, Cornell debate, Webster chess…

Why can’t I just be happy? 

Hoya Saxa!

It was 38 years ago. My mother reached Georgetown Hospital, and shortly after I was born in the early hours of the morning. There I was, jaundice with a cone head and peeing all over the place—so I’m told. I’m a normal color, my head flattened out and I try to go get through the day with some decency now.

My father went to Georgetown, so did my sister and my two stepbrothers. I was born in D.C. and was too young to remember the school’s golden years, but I was alive, nonetheless, drooling at the television, processing the flickering lights and nothing more.

Now, decades later, I still cheer for the Hoyas. Patrick Ewing is at the helm trying to accomplish what he did as a player for the university in the ‘80s. Their run through the Big East Tournament was unprecedented, but even more moving. The great John Thompson, ex-Hoya coach and, more importantly, dominating and significant civil presence, passed away last year, and there appears to be some inspired play from the Hoyas of late. This season is dedicated to Big John, and a win in the NCAA Tournament would make it just that much sweeter.

Game Attire: Navy Hoyas’ long-sleeve shirt with Jack the Bulldog’s rough face on it and a white towel draped over my shoulder.

Prediction: Sweet 16

O-H-I-O!

We moved to Dublin, Ohio after leaving D.C. The small town outside of Columbus was a beautiful area, and the love for Ohio State everything stretched well past our borders. We fell in love with football, but the university is powerful in all athletics.

The basketball program has always been solid, but the last time they won the national championship was in 1960. Of course, the football team is in contention every year it seems for their respective title.

In 2007, the Buckeyes made the championship game, only to fall short. In 2012, they returned to the Final Four, but lost their semifinal game. This year may be different. The team reached the Big Ten championship game, and the conference was the best in the country. They won’t need much luck to get back to the Final Four, but I better not take any chances with tradition.

Game Attire: Dark gray Buckeyes’ long-sleeve shirt with buckeye leaves that dangerously resemble marijuana and a scarlet hat.

Prediction: Elite Eight

Go Bonnies!

The year I graduated from high school was a trying one to say the least. I was at the latter end of my teenage angst, and situations beyond my control led me to believe a fresh start was needed. I packed up and drove almost 2,000 miles east and settled in the small peaceful confines of a town in western New York.

St. Bonaventure had a beautiful campus and great people. I enjoyed my year spent at the university, I even made one of my best friends for life in that short time, and we’re still in contact today. However, timing is everything, and though I loved trekking through a foot of snow to get to class at times, the small-town feel and proximity to Buffalo and Toronto, I mind just wasn’t ready for college.

Though I left school early, that time spent at St. Bonaventure made me appreciate their basketball program and I will remain loyal. Watching the games in their small campus gym and how the community adored the Bonnies was special. The program has reached the Final Four once (1970). Bob Lanier led that great squad, and the team has had some good rosters since. This year is one of the better ones, and hopefully they can get past LSU and knock off Michigan, Ohio State’s sworn enemy, in the second round.

Game Attire: Gray Bonnie’s T-Shirt and maybe something brown lying around the house to hold.

Prediction: Round of 32 

Roll Tide!

The Crimson Tide are my newest love. I started my higher education at St. Bonaventure and finished my graduate studies at Alabama. Perhaps another school will earn my loyalty if I pursue a doctorate. For now, Alabama is the freshest fandom.

I’ve never felt so welcomed in a university setting. The faculty was tremendous and I’m still in contact with some of my professors. No, I’m not a brown-noser; I’ve just been enchanted by southern charm. Though, the humidity isn’t my favorite.

Like Ohio State, Alabama is most known for their talent on the gridiron, claiming their 18th national championship this past season. The basketball program has a great chance to help Alabama become only the second school in history to hold both men’s basketball and football titles in the same year (Florida, 2007). Let’s not get ahead of ourselves quite yet; that’s some serious jinxing right there.

On an awful side note, those Gator teams beat the Buckeyes in both basketball and football to claim their titles. Ugh.

Game Attire: Crimson Alabama T-shirt with angry elephant head stating “Roll Tide!” and a khaki hat with Big Al and the “Bama” scroll.

Prediction: Final Four

Just My Luck

Three of these four schools are in the same region. The NCAA Tournament committee is obviously against me. They sit in their little board room, ties loosened, passing around pitchers of what we all hope is water, laughing at an embarrassing candid photo of me taped to the whiteboard. How rude. Ideally, like the College Football Playoff championship, I would want all four of my teams in the Final Four. The only possible final-two pairing can be Alabama and Ohio State. Interesting. See above, and also way above.

Or would I want this?

I wouldn’t win, again. Perhaps having the teams I support play each other early erases any false sense of hope. Friday, I start my journey, but Saturday will be an all-day fest. How early is too early to start drinking? If tip-off is past noon in one time zone, does that validate opening a morning beer?

Friday and Saturday, and with any luck Sunday and Monday, I will be on my sunken cushion of the couch, skipping any temptation to be active outside or healthy in general, and superstitiously watch each of my teams advance or fall. I’m hoping for pure joy, will settle for a blend of bliss and agony, and ultimately wish I’m not completely tormented.

Let’s not forget about the total importance of this year’s NCAA Tournament, however. It’s been two years since a champion was crowned in front of a raucous crowd in a sold-out stadium. Then something terrible happened, and now society is gradually returning to form.

When the referee tosses the ball up at mid-court at the start of the first tournament game this afternoon, a shining moment will take place. Something close to normal for all of us. We should all be happy, for we have madness.

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