Readers of this column, sometimes known as tripe, will know that not long ago yours truly made some fearless predictions regarding the current March Madness NCAA hoops tourney.
No way was Michigan State going to get invited. They hadn't earned it by a long shot. But into the dance they went. I was wrong.
More recently, I surmised that it was entirely possible the Big 10 wouldn't see a single team last through the first two rounds of play to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Oops, busted again.
Well, OF COURSE I was wrong. I'm ALWAYS wrong when it comes to making such predictions.
This is a dubious trait I inherited from my late father. If he picked them, they were in big trouble. It became quite evident a long time ago when "Friday Night at the Fights" would come on TV. It was sponsored by a razor blade company, Schick or Gillette, I forget which.
See, dad was a big-time boxing fan and had done some amateur pugilism himself in his younger days.
Friday night at my house was almost a holy thing. Thou shalt not, repeat NOT talk while the fights are on. Dad would always have his favorite that he just KNEW was going to easily prevail over the sap that was dumb enough to get in the ring with him in the first place.
And then it would happen. BAM. Down he goes. Dad's pick was out. Though Dad's jinx had become fairly predictable over the months and years, this was no time for any "I told you sos", or even the slightest smirk. Such infidel behavior could swiftly be met with severe punishment. Being banished to my room was the least of my worries. It was something about being made to bend over a certain chair in the basement with a belt coming into play that had long been etched in my youthful memory banks. No thanks. Been there, done that, and that stuff seriously smarts. Be stoic when the fights are on, no matter what.
It should also be noted this was long before the days of any remote controls. No need. I WAS the remote control. Put it on Channel 7, boy. Get me a beer, boy. Turn it up, boy. Let the dog out, boy. I did more marching and had more "yes sirs" coming out of me than a boot camper in the Marine Corps.
Ah yes, fond memories indeed and, to this day, many decades later, somewhere in my subconscious being the memory of that belt has no doubt kept me from doing some things I knew to be wrong, even if I could have likely gotten away with them.
Thanks Dad, I needed that. And sorry about your palookas getting clobbered so many times.
Back to Big 10 hoops.
Yeah, MSU might have got past a not-so-good Miami team, but the jig was up against Kansas. They got rightfully smoked by 20.
Northwestern, the brains school, was making their first NCAA hoops appearance ever. To the purple gang's credit they held off a pesky Vanderbilt team in the first round. Their reward? A date with #1 seed Gonzaga -- out west. At that, they gave the Zags all they could handle, but it was just too much fire power to overcome and the Wildcats went down.
Minnesota and Maryland both made an early exit, but they were pretty much of the cannon fodder variety to begin with. Nobody expected them to go far.
So of seven Big 10 teams, four are already gone.
But wait, I said none would make it to the Sweet Sixteen, right?
Wrong. Can you hear me, Dad?
Purdue, the regular season conference champ in an otherwise mediocre conference, bowed out of the conference tourney early, and looked like they were very vulnerable to do the same when the NCAA's started. Maybe not too surprisingly they dispatched a lowly Vermont team and then got past a pretty decent Iowa St. squad. Sweet Sixteen it is. Their reward? A date with the same Kansas that trashed MSU -- in Kansas City. Good luck with that. But you never know. All but one of the original field has to fall eventually, and the Boilermakers could conceivably pull off the upset.
Which brings me to the two surprise Big 10 teams and what they have accomplished.
First, Michigan. Less than a month ago, the Wolverines were considered a "bubble" team. Maybe they'll get in -- and maybe they won't. But then they got hot, winning the conference tourney. That wasn't supposed to happen. In the opening round, the Blue shot the lights out, and barely escaped Okla St. by one point. A bad omen, because up next was #2 Louisville and that pesky Rick Pitino with his devious ways and championship pedigree.
Yours truly was absolutely convinced this was the end of the road for the Wolverines. No way are they getting past the Redbirds.
But they did. Check off another one in the "wrong" column.
Most surprising of all was Wisconsin upsetting overall #1 seed and defending champ Villanova. Get outta here. The Badgers knocked THOSE guys off? Are you kidding me?
What's up with these Big 10 teams? Don't they know their place? How dare they throw a wrench into the infinite wisdom that is always behind these writings. Harrumph!!
Maybe I should go out to the cemetery again sometime soon and have another talk with my father.
"Dad, I'm beginning to feel the pain you once experienced. Seems like I can't ever get my picks right either. No, I don't drink E and B, Pfeiffers, or Drewry's. In fact, I don't even think they're around anymore. And these days everybody has remotes that can work miracles, rather than the one I used to be for you. Believe it or not, belts are out of the question these days. Something called political correctness would rather put the parent in jail than let him tan the hide of a rogue youngster that absolutely deserved it -- and would make him a better person later on. But it pretty much is what it is and I keep trying to roll with the punches, as you once taught me in those boxing lessons. I know it took her 20 years to finally get there, but now you have Mom next to you, and probably have a lot of serious catching up to do. Just between us guys, I'm not sure if being in close quarters with her for all eternity is necessarily a good thing. A wonderful woman, but she did have her not-so-good ways at times. Nothing you don't know. Wish you could come back and impart a little more wisdom on your eldest son, but you probably wouldn't like what you'd see of the world these days. It's ugly down here, with a great big dose of stupid thrown in. But hey, I'm carrying on the best I can. I'd ask your advice on future roundball picks, but we both know how THAT would turn out. I can laugh about that now, but I did think about that belt for just a second. Some things just never seem to go away. And for sure, I'll catch up with you later, one way or the other".
So what does all the above nonsense add up to?
Always and forever after respect thy father, and....
You don't won't me picking your team to win, because they'll surely go down.
Dad wouldn't have had it any other way.
PS. Uh-oh. What's that? The Dukies just got smoked by South Carolina? Dang, I didn't even get around to picking Coach K's crew to easily dispatch those low-life Gamecocks. But I was surely thinking it.
Wow. Even my thoughts can be a jinx. This is worse than I thought....