Trading Shots At The Last Dance Saloon

Having made my thoughts on March Madness crystal clarion, I met with some resistance from the hardwood posse. They Luca’ed my Brasi on the matter by refuting my faluting with the kind of trash talk that gets my Hemi humming; all cheek, no meek. Buried in the vitriolic wreckage, however, was a genuine misconception about my opinion of college basketball in general and their postseason tournament in particular.

I don’t hate it.

There was a time when I actually loved the stuff. And then progress transformed the sport from a Gene Hackman matinee to a Gene Simmons midnight rager. Where rosters once went five deep, now most clubs are lucky if they have two all-stars, and they’re even luckier if they get two seasons out of them. The talent pool is dispersed like never before thanks to cable deals that expand the number of destination campuses exponentially. There’s also the matter of NIL, which allows highly sought after recruits to create their own brands rather than build their professional equity on the shoulders of a big brand school. And let’s face it, the lure of next level dinero is hard to pass up if your comps are collecting NBA paychecks. It can be argued, and I’ve heard these arguments all week long, that the sport is more interesting this way. And maybe it’s true . . . but not enough for me to tune in.

Nonetheless, I have taken the pushback to heart and so, for the haters, Imma extend an olive branch. Sort of.

Here then is my bracket for March Madness 2023, hot on the heels of my office pool win last year. (Editors Note: My office pool win last year followed the Congressional blueprint of total guesswork and dumb luck). I filled that fucker out the way George Santos fills out his resume, so anyone who uses my choices for the purpose of wagering? Well, you must really hate your money.

My bracket works a little differently from all these big name, overhyped prognosticators out there in that I have automatically deleted more than half the field because I feel like sixty-eight candidates is ridiculous. This ain’t the GOP presidential field, people!

Some of the more prominent names I kicked to the curb? Sure why not . . .

Alabama– If you ain’t up on this awful story about how society values wins and losses more than it does human life, read this piece by Candace Buckner.

Purdue- I recognize this name for chicken, not hoops.

Kansas- I prefer the rock and roll band.

Houston- The Astros call it home, so nope.

Okay, so the top seeds are out in my ball breaking bracket busting scenario but I’m not simply ganging up on goliaths here. There are several lesser regarded clubs I can’t be down with either. Like Iona, because that’s what you name a kid you can’t stand. And Drake, whose songs possess as much appeal as root canal. Oral Roberts reminds me that televangelism was the father of ‘QAnon and Indiana is the mother of Bobby Knight and . . and . .  KentuckyTennessee and Arkansas are a bunch of kissing cousins who keep the cheap beer industry going.

Teams I dig include . . .

Furman- Because I’m sure OJ doesn’t have them in his bracket. See what I did there?

Charleston- Alumni include Darius Rucker, Art Shell, Lauren Hutton and Stephen Colbert. Plus, they are home to the River Dogs. Sold!

Creighton- This happens to be the name of the love child I had with Vera Farmiga back in the eighties. Oh shit . . I said that out loud?

Colgate- Nine out of ten dentists surveyed have this school in their brackets.

Grand Canyon- I loved the movie with Kevin Kline and Danny Glover.

Miami- Duhhhh!

Kennesaw State- Mark Twain would’ve picked them. I’m sure of it.

As for my Final Four prediction, in the Thelonious Monk bracket . . .

I’m going with Georgetown even though they ain’t in the dance. Because I’m old enough to remember when they were a fixture in the tourney with the legendary John Thompson. The Hoyas will face off against Duke: the 1990-92 editions who were delightful villains and my favorite college teams ever. Obviously, they ain’t in the dance either so I’m putting them there.

In the Michael Jordan Is The Goat bracket . . .

The Pittsburgh Pythons might be a fictional professional basketball team from the 1979 flick The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh but so what? With the great Julius Erving in the role of Moses Guthrie, the team turns to astrology in a last ditch effort to save the moribund franchise. They change their name to Pisces and make a title run. Top that Jim Nantz! The Pythons will go against the Miami Hurricanes, because this is MY bracket and my dream scenario. I realize there isn’t much chance that a bunch of college kids are going to beat Julius Erving in his prime, but hey, that’s why they play the games, right?

As for crowning a champion, I tossed with calling it a tie since I love all four contestants but that would be entirely unrealistic. So Imma go with my Hurricanes to ring in April with their first ever hoops title. Their magical run proves such an inspiration that the Heat also make an improbable run to the title. After which the Dolphins make it a hometown trifecta by winning the Super Bowl, and the Marlins? Are in attendance!

Welp, I sincerely hope this will serve as an apology to any college basketball fans I may have offended. And as an added bonus, this post doubles as a drinking game: For every ridiculous prediction, shot! Please make sure to drink responsibly . .

. . .ish.






Beware the Lies of March (Madness)

deflated basketball

Don’t worry, this isn’t a whiny, frothing rant on the shitty state of the sports world. No . . this is a whiny, frothy rant on the shitty state of college basketball.

I used to be a fan of college ball back in the day. Back when players stayed in school all four years. Back when conferences made sense. Back when fundamentals mattered more than gangster posing and preening and three pointers and slam dunk highlights.

This isn’t to say that players shouldn’t make the jump to the NBA if they possess the skills. Hey, if you can make baller money . . go do it! But this is to say that the pillars of the sport- Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Mike Krzyzewski- have failed their young charges. Miserably. Not the one tenth of one percent who end up playing at the next level. They have failed the ones who won’t. But since those kids aren’t where the money’s at, no prob.

Rail on all you want about John Calipari being shameless. Damn the basketball factory he’s running at Kentucky, but yanno what? He is the only one who ain’t lying. And most of his starting lineup actually will get drafted by an NBA team. So there’s that.  See, all the rest of these coaches love Calipari, because he’s the punching bag for their transgressions.

This didn’t just happen overnight, mind you. It happened over decades and decades, as the money got bigger and the priorities of these institutions of higher learning became increasingly narrow and subversive. How else to explain how it is that many taxpayer funded schools wantonly recruit athletes with rap sheets . . recruit athletes from the other side of the world . . hire coaches in order to ‘bribe’ recruits into playing for them.

Why doesn’t someone ask Jim Boeheim how he got out from under the Bernie Fine scandal? Why doesn’t someone ask Jim Calhoun how, if he loved his kids so much, he could leave them and his school holding the bag when he walked away from a litany of transgressions, unscathed? Why won’t someone ask Pimp Daddy Rick Pitino what he’s smoking when he boasts of always having run clean programs? And why in the blessed fuck doesn’t someone ask Michigan State coach Tom Izzo to be real, or at least try? When Izzo says he won’t answer any non-basketball related questions in fairness to his players, why doesn’t someone ask about the women and the girls? Was it fair to them? Every single fucking question he is asked should be about the women and the girls.

And now we get “March Madness”- the most over hyped production since Waterworld, and every bit as anti-climactic. How else to explain a tournament where every single ‘upset’ is a subjective enterprise? I mean, a committee seeds the teams, which is overwhelmingly subjective. And then, when a nine seed beats an eight seed, everyone screams UPSET!. The truth of the matter is there are very few true ‘upsets’ in the tournament, yet we are led to believe it happens all the time and every year. It’s nonsense, perpetuated by networks who buy the rights to televise this tournament for a shitload of money, after which they lord over the NCAA. The tail wags the dog, and the tail is big money that leads to more corruption, which leads to the next scandal. After which the NCAA will get tough by taking wins away from a school, titles too. But it won’t change a fucking thing, because the system is built for cheating.

I know exactly one thing about this year’s tournament. My son’s school (Penn) is slotted as the sixteenth seed in some regional . . somewhere . . Whoville or Buttfuckswana who knows? What I do know is that these kids- all of ’em- will be pulled out of the classroom to go play tournament basketball for days, maybe even weeks at a time. Not that the high profile athletes have to worry themselves with missed class time, unless they want to be students. The academics are optional for too many of these kids, and the sad fact is that too few of these kids will make an NBA roster, so yanno . . a college education is kind of important.

The Penn Quakers will be playing the number one seed Kansas Jayhawks. The game will most likely be over before halftime, and Kansas will probably make another title run because they’re a minor league basketball team whose integrity as an academic institution now runs a distant second to being a basketball power, since that’s where the money is.

The Penn kids will be just fine, and who knows . . maybe a few of them will even be representing the Kansas kids before too long. Either as player/agents or in a court of law. Harsh, sure. True? Absofuckinglutely.

I’ll fill out a bracket in which I guess my ass off, but I will not watch a minute of the tournament. Because college basketball doesn’t need me, they already have their money.

Maybe it was always going to be this way. Maybe college basketball was destined to be a runaway train whose allegiance to the almighty dollar over every single other thing was gonna happen regardless. Maybe it was always destined to crash and burn in the same way Bobby Knight’s coaching career did, after one too many bad grandpa acts. Come to think of it, Knight is symbolic of college basketball- a high profile bully whose boorishness was overlooked because winning games mattered most. Knight was the literal bottom to a bottom line that honors winning games over all else. I wish Bobby Knight would’ve tried his act on the wrong person, just once. Because he didn’t need kudos and applause. What he needed was a good ass kicking.

So too, does his sport.