Sunday, April 3, 2011

Watching My March Madness Dreams End On A Cool April Night: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

My Final Four run ended yesterday. :-(

For those who have no clue what I'm talking about, I'm making a reference to the NCAA Men's College Basketball tournament.

No, I'm not a player.

I'm 31 years old. I'm terrible at hoops. I'm short. And I'm white.

And I'm not in college.

(Not that that matters, since most players on these teams don't really go to class all that much, so they're not really in college either).

But like most of America, I do play in NCAA tournament pools, as has been well documented in this blog (click here to read my most recent blog on the subject). This year, I had 15 entries, my most ever. Unlike many years, however, I lasted until the Final Four.

Now, for those of you who aren't sports fans and have no idea what the hell I just said, it's real simple:

I had a real chance to make a lot of money. :-)

My brackets -- well, 2 of them anyway -- had a chance to get the big money, the big score, the one that can pay for March Madness entries for years to come. I had gotten to the final weekend; no mean feat, for anyone who plays on a regular basis. I clawed, I battled, I outlasted many others and withstood many a test, to get to this point.

You see, it doesn't always happen this way. Many years, your brackets get bounced out early. An upset here, a random shot there, and all of a sudden the hard work you did in figuring out what your brackets should look like go up in a puff of smoke and all you can think to yourself is:

"We'll get 'em next year."

Other years, you last a while longer. You get beyond the first couple of rounds and dreams of winning it all begin to creep in your head. But then reality sets in, as you are reminded that getting past Rounds 1 and 2 is a lot easier than Rounds 3 and 4. And by the end of the second weekend, you're gone.

It's those that get to the final weekend that really feel like they've made it to the Promised Land. There's nothing like turning on your TV at the start of Final Four action, look at the two teams on the court and the 65,000-plus watching the game live, and knowing that all your hard work over the past several weeks has brought you here to this moment. It was luck. It was skill. It was a combination of both. But you're here, you're there, and all that's left to do is live the moment.

That's where I found myself yesterday, when Kentucky -- my team, the one I banked all of my hopes on -- took on Connecticut. The setup was simple: Kentucky wins, I win money, with the chance to win more. UConn wins, I'm done.

I had changed my strategy this year. Unlike my younger days, I didn't live and die on every game, every shot, in the tournament from the get go. When I do that, I have nothing left for the later rounds. This year, I paced myself. I didn't go nuts over the first few rounds. I didn't panic when Butler upset Pittsburgh. I didn't get myself in a tizzy over trying to get Duke to rally past Arizona. I didn't scream and shout and beat my chest when Kentucky survived surprising tough games against Princeton and West Virginia.

Because I paced myself, I was able to channel my energy toward Kentucky upsetting Ohio State. To them withstanding a furious rally against North Carolina. And now, the question before me was whether this year, I had enough to go all the way.

And I almost did. I almost did.

Kentucky looked horrible early. I mean, God awful. They couldn't buy a shot. Couldn't make a free throw. They went into halftime down by 10, and my wife Ramona shot me a worried look.

But I didn't come this far to panic now. I saved some in the tank for just this moment.

Willed by me -- and me alone -- Kentucky opened the second half with back-to-back 3s. Suddenly, the tides had turned, as it was UConn on the ropes and Kentucky -- my team -- with the momentum. Minutes later, we had the lead as I announced to the world that this year, I wasn't about to go down on the biggest stage without a fight.

The lead changed back and forth. UConn reclaimed the lead. Then Kentucky. UConn went cold. Then Kentucky went cold. With seconds to play, Kentucky miraculously stole the ball, down two with 16 seconds to play.

It was time to see whether I had one more miracle left in me.

Alas, I did not. Kentucky did not. With seconds to go, we missed a 3-pointer that would've put us ahead. UConn got the rebound and iced the game with free throws.

And my March Madness had ended on a cool April night.

Afterwards, Ramona gave me a consolation hug and kiss. Elsewhere around the country, other March Madness bracket players eliminated earlier bowed their heads respectfully, as one of their few remaining peers had joined their ranks. I had gotten one step closer to the Promised Land...but I still wasn't able to put my foot on it.

Next year, we'll do the same thing all over again.

March Madness.

We'll get 'em next year.


And now for this week's:


Evander Holyfield met Justin Bieber.

And Holyfield was quoted as saying how great it was.

You may not think this is much of an SOTA.

But for a boxing fanatic like me, this news just makes you want to cry.


Scott said...

Well said, Nev. Well said.

Sharon said...

OMG you guys take this shit way too seriously.

Phil said...

Wow you had Kentucky winning in a couple of pools. That's impressive, they almost did it.

Noah said...

Get. A. Life.

Sean said...

I'm hoping Butler beats the shit out of them Monday night

Chris said...

It's all about the Huskies baby