"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Monday, March 21, 2005

On the Other Hand...

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(No wonder Syracuse lost to Vermont, their stylish orange headbands got in the way. You can't shoot if you can't see!)

Photo from ESPN.com

I have tried to stay away. I really have. I have even expressed my apathy towards the particular brand of sport that has the whole world in a tizzy right now. To be ridiculously self-referential, I will even declare that I said, "Eh" in regards to this March Madness thing right here on this very blog. But that's the thing with anything labeled a "madness," it's difficult to avoid. I mean, hell, just look at the way people who move to this city become Red Sox fans. It's a fever. A sickness. You can't escape it.

You could say the same for March Madness. I'm not willing to declare my undying love for college basketball just yet. I'm far more cold-hearted and set in my ways than all that, but I will admit to choosing it over, say, bowling on ESPN these past few days. I may have even filled out the bracket in my most recent issue of The Sporting News if only because I like writing in magazines with pen. (Shut up). I wasn't in the slightest bit happy that CBS chose to show the basketball over the "CSI" (shut up) on Thursday but I'm making due. And what team did I pick to win it all? Why look, on this very blog I picked Louisville. And who's in the Sweet 16 now? Oh would you look at that? It's Louisville. Just sayin'.

I know, this is an about face. But not a complete conversion. Don't you worry. Even as I listened to BC lose to NC State on Saturday evening on my way to an 80's party, (yes, I listened to it on the radio, so sue me), I couldn't really feel the drama. Ted Sarandis was beside himself in near agony over BC's collapse but I just kind of shrugged and said, "Oh well." I certainly didn't get that, "I've been kicked in the stomach and beaten about the head with a frying pan and very nearly may be sick" feeling I get when the Red Sox lose a big game. Just "eh."

I was, however, invited to a "Syracuse Rooting" party on Friday night by Amy's roommate Annette and Annette's lovely, if Philly fan, boyfriend Mike. Mike's apartment is a beautiful little one-bedroom in Back Bay off Charles St. and its adorableness and quintessential Boston-ness very much made me want to cry and rend my garments for lack of money with which to afford such a place for myself. But there was beer. And there were koozies. And when there are beer and koozies (and a half-baked idea for Domino's delivery) there are good times. Perhaps not so much for Annette who, outfitted in her teeny, tiny "Real Women Wear Orange" Syracuse t-shirt (and I'm just sayin', I could probably fit Annette in the front pocket of my hoodie with very little problem), watched her boys get beat by dirty, tree-hugging, Phish-lovin', pot-smokin', Burkinstock-wearin' hippies from Vermont. I mean, not that I traffic in stereotypes or anything. All game long Annette fielded phone calls from her brother, father and friends. Her end of the conversation consisting mostly of "Are you watching this crap?" and "What the hell is going on?" To which I listened, shook my head and thought of times, not so long in my past and almost assuredly in my future, when I will be partaking in such calls myself.

Interestingly, it seemed of little condolence to her after the upset when I said, "You have that look on your face like you just want to punch someone. I know that look. I'm a Red Sox fan." I was greeted with a few blank looks as if I was being told, "Is that supposed to make her feel better?" Because I guess people are under the impression that being a Sox fan is no longer a painful experience. As if somehow, the previous 86 years don't matter. And I'm not saying the World Series wasn't great or that it didn't ease the pain, because it sure as hell did. I'm just saying that it's still there. The wound just throbs a bit more dully now. But I mean, Syracuse won the damn thing two bleepin' years ago. That isn't so much a generations-long dry spell there. Anyway…

Mike, because he is a good, supportive sort, donned his Brian Dawkins Philadelphia Eagles jersey so that he and Annette could be united in their stead of being beaten by New England
teams. Then I expressed my respect for Mike's team because, as you all know, the Eagles scared the bejeebus out of me. Turns out I apparently like the Eagles quarterback more than some of his actual fans do and then Mike and I got into a heated argument about which team was hotter; Eagles or Patriots. I gave him Dhani Jones (thanks to Mer for educating me to the wonder of her future husband, Mr. Jones), and D-Nabb, but I insisted on Tommy, Big Sey and Tedy Bear. Whom Mike made a disparaging comment about but I assume that was only to get me all riled up since he can't possibly have been serious and even Amy went, "Oh damn, you did not," and stepped out of the way and Mike saw the look which must have read "intense bodily harm is about to befall you" in my eyes and said he was just kidding. Which is good because, I mean, I can't…let's just move on. He then wondered, when I started arguing passionately about the aesthetic merits of a one Mr. Brady, why he, a straight man, was trying to convince me that his football team was more attractive. We decided to settle our differences over a game of Trivial Pursuit some time in the future. This is a grudge match, kids. I'm 'a be ready. If I win, I might demand that I be allowed to hold his baseball autographed by both Bill Mueller and Jason Varitek. Or, as I declared loudly, "The All-Ass Team of 2005."

I believe at one point, this conversation also took place:

Me: Didn’t someone get all in an uproar about Syracuse’s mascot a few years ago?

Annette: Yeah, they changed it.

Amy: From?

Annette: The Orangemen

Amy: To?

Annette: The Orange.

Me: That’s…better?

Amy: What’s the mascot, a big orange?

Annette: Yeah.

Amy: Oh, I was kind of kidding.

Me: How is that worse than Harvard? Aren’t they “The Crimson?”

Heidi: Yeah but “crimson” sounds so much cooler than “orange.”

Me: Damn Harvard smarties with their synonyms for “red.”

The highlight of the evening, however, may have been the intense koozie* fight that Amy and I engaged in. Minds out of the gutter, kids, it's perfectly clean, wholesome family fun. Except with beer. Seems Amy had procured some especially fantastic beer koozies which bear a striking resemblance to Bruins' great Cam Neely. Or Cam Neely without a head. Or any discernible "people parts." But Cam Neely nonetheless. I mean, they look like little Bruins jerseys with the number 8 and "Neely" on the back. Put those puppies on a beer bottle and it's good times all around. Unless you're Carolyn and you have an unexplained hatred and subsequent fear of koozies but clearly that one just needs help. I had just been lamenting the lack of hockey (blank looks all around),** and the cockles of my little hardened heart were warmed by the koozies. So, at a slow point in the game – and in a game with a score of 23-19 at halftime, there was quite a bit of down time – Amy and I decided to engage in a Koozie grudge match. It was awesome. It looked like this:

Neely won.

So, the moral of the story – if there can reasonably be expected to be one – is that college basketball may in fact be more entertaining than watching paint dry. Just normal paint, though, because I assume that semi-gloss neon paint would put up quite a fight, but that it's undoubtedly more fun to watch with someone who cares. You can root with them (because you like Annette and she graciously lets you crash in her room frequently), or against them (because you like Ben & Jerry's-eatin', dreadlock-havin'
hippies). But one way or the other, there's passion there. And that's kind of what sports are all about.

*The manufacturers really, really need to think of a better name for this product. It's not just me, right?

**And people do so care about the hockey. Not three minutes after the conclusion of Koozie Grudge Match, '05, I got a phone call from my mother asking me if I was watching the Hockey East semi-finals because my brother, in his position at Bauer Nike, had procured tickets to the semi-finals at the Fleet or the Garden or whatever the hell that building is called now, and was sitting four rows behind the UNH bench watching the Wildcats (go Wildcats!) beat the snot out of BU.