The Ottumwa Courier

April 13, 2013

A Big Ten Benedict Arnold

MATT BRINDLEY Ottumwa Courier
Ottumwa Courier

---- — Imagine if all of the nuclear warheads blew up at exactly the same time the sun exploded.

Big deal.

I came back from the most disastrous beginning from an NCAA Basketball Tournament pool in history to win.

Cheers’ Sam Malone once said the “nuclear warheads, sun” line, and I’d always thought it would be a good story lead for a big Ottumwa victory ... “big deal, the Bulldogs just beat such-and-such.” Well, I finally found an opportunity to use it.

As you may know, after the first round, my bracket sheet had more “Xs” on it than a Gary Busey substance abuse questionnaire.

But as they say, “The big points don’t come until later.” I’ve adopted a new philosophy and it works: “Do the opposite.” Seinfeld’s George Costanza demonstrated it, and so I tried it on my bracket sheet this year. The philosophy is “if every instinct you’ve ever had has been wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” It’s so Zen-like. It’s powerful. I’m telling you. This could be my new-age religion!

I’ve always picked heavy on the Big Ten Conference because Iowa’s from the Big Ten, and I’m a Big Ten guy. And this was the year the Big Ten was supposed to be the best conference, so you would think I’d pick all Big Ten teams. The Big Ten actually did pretty well in the tournament, but I would have gotten smoked picking Indiana, Wisconsin or Michigan State.

Instead, “I did the opposite” and picked Louisville to beat Syracuse in the finals.

Saturday in the Final Four semis, I was actually rooting for Michigan to beat Syracuse despite the fact that an Orange win would have clinched the pool for me, as sportswriter Scott “Action” Jackson continued to remind me.

But I’m not about the money, I explained. I’m tired of the Big Ten losing high-profile games — blown out in national title games, losing Rose Bowls, screaming at the TV on New Year’s Day. I’m sick of it! Just once I want to see the Big Ten win a high-profile game and stick it to these other conferences.

It came down to the final game — I had Louisville, not Michigan.

Action Jackson was ribbing me — calling me a Big Ten turncoat, a Big Ten traitor, just going for the money. “How can you live with yourself?” he questioned, after years of rooting for the Big Ten! He made me feel like a Big Ten Benedict Arnold. Though he could care less about conference allegiance himself, he told me I was trying to make money against everything I believed in — that it was blood money — and to avert my shame, I could just give it to him for turning against the Big Ten.

I certainly was perplexed hearing updates at work on the game. I couldn’t help but root for the Big Ten against the Big East, but it was nice to get all of that loot afterwards.

But, you see, it’s not about the money. In fact, I think I may take my envelope of winnings out in the street and burn it just to prove that point. I could have an “above the money” moment ... a platform to talk about issues that really matter to me — the same way these celebrities pretend to. An issue like ... giving the metric system another chance, or the fur coat deal or safe transport of nuclear waste. Which one, I haven’t decided.

No, actually my issue is the media’s discrimination against the Big Ten — those anti-Big-Ten-ites. It’s discrimination. Oh, it starts with a few jokes and some slurs, “Hey, Big Ten choker!” Next thing you know the rabid anti-Big-Ten-ites probably start saying we should have our own schools. Well, I guess we do have our own schools. But, nevertheless, it’s discrimination — they just love bashing the Big Ten.

But I’ll take my new-found blood money and my new “do the opposite” religion, and I can’t lose. I’ll bet against the Big Ten and root for them. You see, it’s zen-like ... I’m somewhat happy either way.