Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hoop Dreams

These past four days in Honolulu have been heaven for me.

Oh, I didn't go to the beach or the pool, and I avoided tourist spots. In fact, I spent most of the last 96 hours in our hotel room watching television. But not just television. This is the weekend when the NCAA kicks off the men's basketball tournament, a knock-out competition for American university teams where it's win or go home until only one remains.

There is an 8-team playoff earlier in the week to give four low-ranked teams a spot in the 64-team tournament. Then it's sheer basketball gluttony. There are 16 games each on Thursday and Friday, 8 games on Saturday and again on Sunday. After 28 games, there are 16 teams left that will play next weekend.

Every game is on TV and also free to view online. Starting early in the morning here in Hawaii and going non-stop until early evening, in the early rounds, there are often three games on at the same time.

With channel surfing elevated to a fine art, news of the day takes a backseat to watching teams I have often have never heard of.  But they do matter, because there is a tradition in the US where just about everyone fills out a bracket with their projected winners.

And when I say just about everyone, consider this. I started out yesterday's games ranked somewhere south of 3.5 million on ESPN.com's bracket competition. But I had a good run picking some upsets and am now in the top 5 percentile. My rank is 238,233.

That's good and bad news. The bad is that I am obviously not going to win the competition. The good? Well, I am doing better than several million others, many of whom probably follow college basketball a lot more closely than I do. Like sports commentator Dick Vitale and rapper Snoop Dogg, both of whom are more than 1 million spots behind me. (Most impressive, though, is Barack Obama, who ranks around 7,000th place - that's the top 1 percent. I'd guess somebody helped him with his bracket.)

LK is happy to put up with my mild case of sports addiction. First, it only happens once a year. But even more important, it means she can happily sit by the pool or go to the mall without having to find something to keep me out of her hair.

Anyhow, we are heading home tomorrow. I have checked the listings, and the next batch of games are on ESPN in Oz. I hope she is as happy to lose me for a few hours then, when there is no pool to compensate.

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