The ‘Madness’ Continues

by Bob Sparrow

2020 Headline

We thought we knew what ‘March Madness’ was until last March when suddenly restaurants, schools, bars, churches, gyms, salons, etc., etc., etc., were suddenly closed for the better part of a year – now that’s MADNESS!

Last year’s ‘other’ March Madness, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, was cancelled due to a new thing called the Coronavirus Pandemic.  This year, in our effort to return to ‘normalcy’, the tournament is back, albeit with a few restrictions around Covid and woke correctness:

  • All players must wear a mask and a shield while playing
  • Coaches over 55 cannot attend the game in person, so must coach from home via Zoom
  • While on the court player must socially distance, making sure they get no closer than six feet from anyone
  • The ball must be sanitized following each team’s possession
  • During the game, all players must be able to show proof of a hook shot, a jump shot and a Pfizer shot
  • Cheering is not allowed, as it could show favoritism to one player over another
  • There will ultimately be no winner and more importantly, no losers – all players will get a trophy

OK, perhaps I’ve stretched the truth a bit, but there are some real restrictions:

  1. To prevent excessive travel, all games will be played in the Indianapolis area
  2. Capacity of games will be limited to 25% of arena capacity
  3. If a team can’t play due to Covid, it will be treated like a loss and that team will be elimination

Former UCLA Coach John Wooden

Most know that the ‘Final Four’ is the last team standing from each division – they play for the championship.  However, the ‘First Four’ is made up of eight teams that are on the ‘bubble’ of getting into the tournament; they play the week before the tournament starts (which was last week) and the four winners advance to round out the 64-team field.

The classic match up in last week’s ‘First Four’ game was UCLA vs. Michigan State.  These two schools have historically been perennial basketball powers and would typically be in the Final Four, not the First Four.  UCLA has made 49 appearances in this tournament, made it to the Final Four 18 times, won the tournament 11 times and was undefeated for the year four times.  Michigan State has made 33 appearances in the tournament, made the Final Four ten times and won the championship twice.

UCLA won last Friday’s ‘First Four’ game in overtime and thus receives an invitation to ‘The Dance’.  Aside from the overtime game, the other three First Four games were decided by 1, 1 and 8 points – this is going to be one great tournament!  Michigan State will be joining  a couple of other basketball powerhouses, Duke and Kentucky, on the sidelines this year.  The last time those two teams were NOT in the tournament, Gerald Ford was president – that was 1976!   A “does-history-repeat-itself” aside: As many of you will recall, Gerald Ford’s assent to the presidency is unprecedented. Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned due to charges of extortion, bribery and conspiracy, President Nixon appointed Ford, who was then the House Minority Leader, to be vice president.  Then, less than a year later, the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resigned, making Ford president.  Does the absence of these teams from this tournament mean we’re going to see some unprecedented movement at the top of our government? Or have we already see it?

But enough about those who didn’t get voted in.  One of the favorites in this year’s tournament is the Gonzaga University Bulldogs, a school with an enrollment of around 7,000 undergraduates in Spokane, Washington.  They are the only undefeated team in the tournament, as well as being a #1 seed along with Baylor, Michigan and Illinois (who got beat in the first round last week!)  This small university in the northwest has been to the tournament 22 times and, in fact, played in the championship game in 2017, when they lost to North Carolina.

Even if you think you don’t like to watch basketball, I would bet that if you start watching this tournament, you’ll find yourself hooked and rooting for, or against various teams – you’ll end up having a ‘favorite’ that you’d like to see playing for the championship on Monday, April 5th.   After this Monday’s games, we’ll be in the ‘Sweet 16’Pac-12 fan are loving the tournament so far, all five teams made it through the first round, including both UCLA and USC.

I think you’ll find the tournament a nice break from the latest Netflix series or another one of those ‘fake’ reality program – this ‘show’ is truly unscripted reality!

The Game, the G.O.A.T.s and the Guacamole

by Bob Sparrow

Young G.O.A.T. and Old G.O.A.T.

I’m writing this before ‘the game’, with the exception of a few comments (in red) that I will squeeze in on Sunday night (assuming I’m relatively sober) or early Monday morning (assuming I’m not too hung over).  For me the Super Bowl is a bitter-sweet occasion, as it’s the best two teams in football squaring off, yet it marks the end of this football season. In January, colleges ended their season with the College Football Playoff National Championship and now this . . . it’s over and I don’t have my Covid-19 or my ‘Football’s Gone’ vaccine – I don’t know if I have the virus, but I am feely depressed.  Perhaps Pfizer can work on a vaccine for that!

So, here’s my preview and review of the events from Sunday’s Super Bowl LV (That’s 55 for those that don’t speak Roman)  Either the young G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time), 25 year old, Patrick Mahomes or the old G.O.A.T., 43 year old, Tom Brady, won the game.  (the old G.O.A.T. was the clear winner!) With my 49ers watching at home, I was ambivalent about the outcome, but rather hoping for a good game, whoever wins.  Another reason for hoping that the game was at least a close, good one (which it wasn’t), was that, for me, much of what surrounds the game is the usual pseudo-hype and frivolous fluff.

I had reviewed all the game’s advertisements on line last week and found them to be lacking in creativity, humor and impact, but they were diverse.  Prior to the National Anthem being sung, America the Beautiful was performed by Gabriella Wilson, who goes by the name H.E.R. (An acronym for Having Everything Revealed.  I’m hoping that it didn’t get to the point of Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show).  The National Anthem was sung by R & B singer, Jazmine Sullivan and country western singer Eric Church – I hope it was recognizable and that everyone stood at attention with their hand over their heart.  OK, I can hear you now, “What century were you born in, Bob?!!!”

The Guac

The halftime show featured The Weeknd, (yes, that’s how you spell it), a three-time Grammy winner, who is known for his graphic music videos and performances featuring blood and violence, but the three-time Grammy winner said he will tone down his act during this show – let’s hope he did; there was probably enough blood and violence during the game.

If you’re feeling like that New Year’s resolution diet just got blown up, it probably did, as Super Bowl is the second most glutenous day of the year, trailing only Thanksgiving.  Like the turkey at Thanksgiving, the avocado is an endangered species during Super Bowls as over 100 million pounds of guacamole were consumed on Sunday. Avocado growers refer to the Super Bowl as the ‘Guacamole Bowl’.

Too late for you now, but I’ll make a few ‘prop bets’ – promise I won’t change them after the game:

  • What color Gatorade will douse the winning coach? And if you’re really into this one you can also make a bet as to whether an offensive or defensive player will be the one dousing. (Orange is the favorite color, I’d bet defensive). (Gatorade was blue and I don’t know who poured it, but it was probably an offensive player)
  • The easiest bet is the coin flip – it’s never landed on its side, so it’s a 50-50 proposition, but because the head side tends to be heavier, I’ll take tails. (it was heads) 
  • Will the first score be a field goal or a touchdown? Better odds on the field goal, but better payout on the touchdown.  With these two teams I’m going with the touchdown. (it was a field goal)
  • How many times will Gisele Bundchen be shown and How many times will Roger Goodell be shown? I’m betting on and hoping it was Gisele! (Unfortunately Goodell got much more screen time)

This is feeling more like my last trip to Vegas!!!

Just in case you were wondering, there were 25,000 real Tampa Bay hometown fans at the game and 30,000 cardboard cutouts – not sure where they were from.

I’m going to have to face the facts that football is over . . . for now, but the vaccine is on its way, isn’t it?  There are rumors that college football may begin in the Spring.  But I’m not going to bet on it!