My Bracket Loves to Get Filled
My father and I don't usually have much to talk about. We've agreed that it's probably not best to talk about politics, as he feels that all my political beliefs have either been borne out of my deep seated and often fulfilled desire to disappoint him or just a phase. We don't talk about work too much because it stresses me out. And we certainly don't talk about what some people with creative license might consider my love life.
But all of that changes around mid March every year. My father and I both become a little obsessed with the NCAA Basketball Tournament. We fill out brackets, we compare notes and like in most other arenas of our life, we usually disagree about each other's decisions.
Last year, in the espn.com contest to pick the winners, I came in the top .04% of all entrants. There were about 4 millions brackets filled out, so I wasn't anywhere close to winning, but I swear I think it was the proudest he had ever been of me.
As you might guess, I didn't play many sports well as a child. I was more athletic than you're probably thinking, not some sort of frail wallflower; I ran and swam really well. But ironically, the minute you handed me balls and expected me to perform, I would fade like Roxette's proverbial flower. I read lots of books and sang in choruses. Yet, he was shocked- shocked- when I came out. My brother thought organized sports beyond cross country were for assholes. So, my dad never got that son who was amazing at sports. That's why he (with the rest of Scranton) loves Gerry McNamara. I call him the son my dad never had.
[Mind you, I was everything at my high school, part of every club, Class President, Valedictorian...so it's not like I was just hanging around filling up space, wishing I was as good at lay-ups as I was at Geography Bees. Just saying, that's for a rant, not a heartwarming yarn about the one time of year my dad likes talking to me.]
So, since we had connections at the University of Scranton, my father would take all of us to their basketball games. For a while in the 80s and 90s their basketball team was a powerhouse in Division 3 Basketball. We would even follow them around to playoff games. We once even almost got stuck in a snow storm following the team to South Jersey. This taught me many lessons, but the one that stuck out was that it's never really safe to go to Jersey because there's always the possibility that you could get stuck there. But trips like this helped instill a love of sports in me. It made me the kind of kid that was equally at ease watching ESPN's Sportscenter or This Week In Style with Else Klench.
For the record, I still love watching people do things that I will never have the talent to do.
Again, I digress. My dad and I talked on the phone for a while tonight about his picks (I haven't made mine yet, as I never do until the Wednesday before the tournament. He knows that, but he's going away tomorrow). He picked a lot of upsets, and told me which teams I need to pick as my upsets. We talked about how lucky I am that one of the two schools I have attended is a Number One Seed for the second time in 2 years. We even talk about how there's no S-sound at the end of the pronounciation of Illinois, even if an S appears there.
I sat and listened attentively, knowing that we were taking each other seriously, as we so often forget to do. It's a nice tradition, and I actually enjoy hearing what he has to say. And for a second, he probably forgets that I am not going to find the woman of my dreams after all.
But then he says something like I need to go with Iona winning in the first round. Dad, you can't be serious.