The Ottumwa Courier

March 27, 2013

Method to the March Madness

Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — How is your bracket sheet? Mine is in tatters. I’ve never picked so poorly.

But it’s just for fun, isn’t it? Not really.

I’ll usually buy a USA Today newspaper that has a scientific breakdown of each team, their quality wins, losses, injuries, which way the team is trending, how they match up with different styles. I’ll read it and then place it over my head that night for some osmosis.

Our extended family had a pool, and my 10-year-old niece Lauren is leading the pack. I asked her how she picked her teams, and she said, “Eenie, meenie, miney, moe.” Ahh, that’s just salt in the wound.

We had a little newsroom office pool organized by Action (Scott) Jackson. I’m in last place. Reporter Chelsea Davis, who rarely ever watches sports, was leading the pack. She did play in the Iowa State Marching Band, so maybe she picked up some sports tips there. I heard from the sports guys her method was to pick teams with states she knew someone in or which mascots would win in a face-off.  

It’s really quite humiliating. Not to compare following sports to a having a Ph.D., but it’s kind of like someone with a Ph.D. getting humbled on “Jeopardy!” in their supposed area of expertise.

Actually my co-worker Tracy’s husband is now leading the pool. But, Tracy said he was just “drafting” off of her bracket sheet and picking a few different ones along the way.

But, hey, the pools’ “big points don’t come until later.” That’s what everyone says. So the next time someone is pressuring you on anything in your everyday life, that’s your go-to line. “Would you relax, the big points don’t come until later!”

I think two of my nieces, Lauren and Olivia, picked No. 14 Harvard to beat No. 3 New Mexico.

My sister Brooke’s husband, Kent, is in a residency at Harvard, and they dressed their baby Ellen up in a Harvard outfit and took her to a Harvard NCAA party to watch the game.

Harvard has produced more U.S. presidents (eight) than NBA players (four) and had never won an NCAA Tournament game in its history. The upset was a big deal in Boston. Not to Brooke and Kent — they’re Iowa State fans and were crushed by the Ohio State travesty.

Sports aren't that important at Harvard. Brooke and Kent took in a Harvard football game this year on a beautiful day — hardly anyone in the stands. It’s the oldest stadium in the country, so you sit on cement seats of what appears to be an old outdoor coliseum. They sat up close with the players’ parents. Half the crowd were parents watching their kids in the band, and they left after halftime. Brooke said it’s the only football game where you’ll see a guy in a tweed jacket working on his laptop during the game. Brooke said they did serve good beer though (according to Kent).

I was hoping Harvard would outsmart Steve Alford and New Mexico and even wrote about it — but I still couldn’t bring myself to write Harvard on my bracket sheet.

It’s kind of like picking a horse for the Kentucky Derby. You can get as scientific and in-depth as you want researching results, but in the end, you’re better off picking a name that jumps out at you.

We at least still have Iowa in the NIT. I found out Stony Brook is not a lovely mall, it’s not a retirement village in Florida and it’s not a great fishing hideaway to escape to. It turns out it’s a college — and Iowa beat them. It’s a good thing the game wasn’t played there — their basketball arena is smaller than Indian Hills’.

Scott Jackson and I cannot get over the constant reminders during the NIT games that “any rebroadcast or reproduction without the consent is strictly prohibited.” Is anyone bootlegging already-played NIT games out on the street? Is this a hot product everyone is clamoring for? I don’t think you could give this product away. I think I’m going to try to make a profit off of it now that they’ve told me I can’t. I want to prove it’s not possible.

Some of the basketball lingo is really starting to sink in — maybe we should use this lingo in our everyday lives. It’s kind of empowering. Whenever I finish a page now, I’ll say, “On cue, Count it!” Or “Matt from downtown, yes!” Or “You are looking live at downtown Ottumwa!” It’s exciting lingo.

A united wrestling  movement

Des Moines finished hosting a successful NCAA Wrestling Championships. Iowa is at the heart of wrestling, and fans from around the country had an opportunity to see that wrestling defines Iowa as much as agriculture.

Bad weather hit at an inopportune time, so I hope everyone made it home safely.

It was also an opportunity for wrestling coaches and some legislators to hold a press conference and come together in a movement to get wrestling back in the 2020 Olympics.

Why one of the original sports of the Olympics, perhaps the oldest sport of mankind, is being thrown out on its ear is beyond me. But it does my heart good to see the unity behind getting the sport reinstated.

Gov. Terry Branstad is doing a great job on this issue and had a letter signed by 34 governors sent to the International Olympic Committee on the importance of wrestling to each state and the meaning behind having the sport in the Olympics. The letter also pointed out that decisions of this magnitude should be made in a transparent manner and not behind closed doors.

I wrote a column “What if Gable’s gold never happened” about the legend’s Olympic inspiration and sent it off to several lowa lawmakers representing us in Washington, D.C., to try and get some traction.

I was trying to brainstorm which lawmakers had ever wrestled. Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld I guess was quite a wrestler — so I even sent him a copy. He has written a column on the issue in the Washington Post. I just remembered Al Franken wrestled — I’ll have to send one to him.

I even sent President Barack Obama a copy — he’ll probably never receive it. But it would be really powerful if President Obama could sign the letter with the governors imploring the IOC to reconsider its decision. Not a single member of the IOC is from the United States. Something is wrong there.

Wrestling is the sixth-most popular sport among high school boys. It does matter.

Here’s to hoping the wrestling community gets this IOC decision taken down.