Sunday, March 29, 2015


My uncle's name was Morris.  His Hebrew name was Moshe.  My uncle passed away in the early 1990s.  Subsequently, his son, my cousin Sam, named his first born, Moshe, after his dad.

Yesterday several Zarembas, Toguts and assorted others gathered in Rockville, Maryland to attend Moshe's bar mitzvah.

The young man did great. He was poised and sang out his portion with confidence.  Seemed unflappable as if there was nothing to this.

Moshe has a following.  The synagogue was packed with supporters, many of whom were his contemporaries who took up three or more rows in the temple.  Dozens of thirteen year old others were there to watch their friend.  Later in the evening a ballroom was jammed with these kids dancing to tunes I have not heard of.

It was a pleasure to watch Moshe on that bema.  I could only imagine how Sam was kvelling watching that young boy--now man--reading the haftorah.

And it was not too difficult to imagine my aunt and uncle beaming their pride and joy as Moshe stood in front of the rabbi. I could see my folks there too, smiling broadly.

Well done, Moshe.  Carry on.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Winners and Losers

Winners tonight:

Wichita State
Wisconsin (not close)

Winners tomorrow night


So, let's say I win them all. Will that make me happy? Let's say I bet a bunch of dough on them all. (I have not) And win them all. Will that make me happy?

I don't think that joy from sports is derived from winning bets.  Whatever joy there is from a wager or a wise pick, is short lived.  The joy from sports is in the watching and cheering or the playing.

If you are a fan of any of the winners, that is a different story. I was elated when Albany and Northeastern made it into the big dance. The former because that is where I earned my undergraduate degree and the latter because that is where I earn my income (and moreover have watched the team play this year).  It would not have made a meaningful difference if I had come away with shekels because of the games.

This is a point I make on a number of occasions in the Madness of March.  The reason people descend on Las Vegas during the first weekend of the tournament is because they revel in the fun of being with like minded fanatics who can enjoy watching 48 basketball games in a four day period.

Last weekend my brother and I mused about going back next year.  Just for the craziness.  It was fun to be in Columbus and very much fun to watch our alma mater compete.  If Albany goes again next year I think we will travel to wherever they are assigned.  Next year I should not be restricted by a work schedule so our comings and goings need not be confined to seeing if I can make it back in time to punch the clock. (I have not actually punched a clock since my stint as a toll collector on the New York State Thruway during the summer of 1970).  If Albany or Northeastern do not get invited to the 2016 dance, the lure of las vegas and the crazies there watching the games might be compelling.

There will be a handful of players competing tonight and tomorrow who may earn a living playing basketball. The rest of the competitors who jump for joy when their teams win and become despondent when they lose, do so because of the joy of sports--not for a dime.  Even millionaire Tom Brady jumped for joy--not shekels--when his teammate Malcolm Butler made the play of the super bowl a few months back.  Nobody on Old Dominion danced like maniacs last night after a last second victory because they now can pay the rent. The Murray State players who looked like they had been shot by the successful Old Dominion heave were not glum because they have a debt.

Jumping for joy when your team wins are leaps of the heart. Has nothing to do with a sum of change.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Connecticut Women

It is still cold.  Woke up at an outrageous hour this morning and, uncharacteristically, could not get back to sleep. I turned on the radio and heard that the wind chill was in the single digits.  Third or fourth day of spring.

I read yesterday that the Texas senator Ted Cruz has announced his candidacy for president. He would like to abolish the IRS, same sex marriage, abortion, health care, and gun control.  Thousands of students at a school in Virginia cheered him wildly.  

My soon to be 96 year old neighbor cannot get someone from social services on the phone.

I have worked with someone who exceeds the 66 day a year sick day benefit our school generously provides.  It is an in-your-face I know the rules and intend to take advantage of them glob of sputum hurled at those who are responsible.

The administrators of the commuter and subway lines in Boston have proudly announced that the trains are nearly at 100 per cent capacity. This they proclaim as if we citizens should stand and provide a round of applause. My assumption has been that trains and buses running at 100 per cent capacity is what the trains and buses are supposed to do. But let us plotz in the streets and shout hosannahs because the buses now go up and down Massachusetts Avenue. And let us not forget that the Commuter Rail, could you bust, is now almost entirely functional

The discussions of Deflate-Gate still exist. It has taken two months for a blue ribbon committee to determine whether balls had air in them and if someone intentionally deflated them.  The claim is that the length of time for the investigation is essential to ensure that the investigation is thorough.  Sure. Where you work I am certain you would be given two months to explore a similar situation.

I pay my father's cable, phone and high speed internet bill.  I have explained to the company that he is dead and no longer needs the triple play.  It is a concept that is difficult for the cable company to grasp.  I have punched 1 for phone, 2, for cable, 3 for internet service until my finger tips have callouses. I have spoken to the children from Chelm who answer the phones. I have delivered death certificates.  The last bill I received included a late fee.

At least we can count on the Connecticut women. They won again last night blasting number 8 seeded Rutgers by thirty points to get into the sweet sixteen.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sweet Sixteen

West Virginia--Red
Louisville -Red
Notre Dame-Red
Wichita State--Red
NC State--Red

Xavier Blue
Michigan State--Blue

Does this have any significance?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Albany and Northeastern

Albany lost to Oklahoma 69-60 playing on a neutral court.
Dayton lost to Oklahoma 72-66 playing on what amounted to Dayton's home court.
Oklahoma is going to the sweet 16.

SUNY Albany can play with the top teams in the country.

Northeastern lost to Notre Dame by four points and had a chance to win with 20 seconds to go.
Notre Dame defeated Butler in overtime and is going to the sweet sixteen.

Northeastern can play with the top teams in the country.

Just saying.

Home Cooking

If you are watching the Dayton-Oklahoma game now: Sunday night at about 8 eastern, your view is akin to the one we had on Friday night.   We were actually a little closer, but the camerafolk were not too many rows behind us.

Having watched both Dayton and Oklahoma less than 48 hours ago, I can write unequivocally that Oklahoma is the stronger team.  They are deeper and there are some big boys on the Sooners. Right now Oklahoma is down by three. They shouldn't be. Dayton is playing a home game on what is dubbed a neutral court. You can watch the game tonight in Columbus and be back to Dayton in time for the 11 oclock news.

It is not quite fair to Oklahoma.  Their fans have to shlep across a time zone, Dayton loyalists did not even have to buy a motel room.

I predicted Dayton would win tonight, but now with six minutes to go I am not sure even with their fandom the Fliers can overcome the power of Oklahoma.

Goodbye Columbus

From my perspective, the new record for distance from one terminal to another within a single airport is now held by Detroit.  People take cabs for shorter trips.  I was thinking that when I got back to Boston I would need to work out. Probably unnecessary now.  I took an earlier flight from Columbus and this is a good thing as I would never have made the connection to the Boston flight if I had gone on the original one.  I sit now waiting in an airport diner for some sort of cheeseburger. I'm close enough to the serving station to overhear the chatter from the waitstaff who seem to be grousing about customers in their sections.

We saw parts of all the games yesterday.  Best of show was a tie between (a) the Notre Dame Butler thriller and (b) the characters we saw in an Ohio State tavern during the OSU tilt that sent Buckeyes out of the tournament.  Within a short walk of the Nationwide arena were seven establishments with customers watching the games.  One even had an outside area with a fireplace that had dozens of patrons despite the chill in the air.

The chill took care of Villanova as well as Ohio State.  North Carolina State appeared to more poised than Villanova which is surprising since Villanova had only lost twice before yesterday.  Give Cincinnati its due for competing courageously against Kentucky.  Cincinnati could have beaten a lot of teams the way they performed against the undefeated Wildcats.  Notre Dame's victory over Butler was sad for Butler but inflated the sense of my university, Northeastern, as on Thursday we played Notre Dame every bit as well as Butler did. With a bounce one way or another, the Huskies could be in the sweet 16.

The first game of the afternoon has already begun. Maryland leads Virginia 23-18 at the half which is a surprise to me.  Had I been asked for my best bet today it would have been Virginia.  With Villanova out I saw the path clear for a Cavalier visit to the final four.

I was impressed with Columbus.  From our hotel everything was within walking distance-so much so that it made renting a car an excessive and unnecessary cost.  A five minute walk to the arena and much of downtown.

Besides Virginia, today I like Duke, Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Maryland, Dayton, UNI and Wichita State.  Dayton will be playing what amounts to a home game against Oklahoma and while they are not as good, they will have the advantages of home cooking.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


We have breakfast in a place called the Sunny Street Cafe.  It is near the Nationwide Arena in the portion of the city aptly called the Arena District.  This place came highly recommended by our very helpful front desk clerk who identified the establishment when we inquired and then found us a coupon at the concierge desk.

The walk past the arena was far different than it had been last night. Very quiet. Not much is happening where thousands had been lurking near the facility when the first doubleheader ended last night and the second one was about to begin.  The work crew at the Nationwide could not have been happy having to clean out the very large stadium in twenty minutes, usher fans out, and then usher the fans for the second doubleheader in.  I wonder who had been adept at hiding in a toilet stall to see if they could emerge from the can undetected to watch the second set of games gratis.

This morning the relative frenzy-free space outside the building is most noticeable. We see no more than ten people in our walk to the Sunny Street Cafe.  The restaurant itself is busy. We are seated at a booth and then notice that many of the diners are wearing garb from the competitors of the day before. Maryland, West Virginia, several Daytons.

We enjoy our fare, coffee up to compensate for the late night--sort of--and return to our hotel. There we visit the welcome desk for NCAA visitors.  At a table we see Chamber of Commerce type maps, assorted brochures and the Experience Columbus magazine with the US of the city cleverly and punningly appearing in a different ink. Visit ColumbUS.  We ask an attendant about restaurants that are the gathering spots for the teams that remain from this district.  He points to a sheet and see the designated places: The R bar, The Three Legged Mare, and Gordon Biersch in addition to a spot we visited yesterday ironically named, Boston's.

We leave this information center and up we go in the elevator. On our ride is a woman wearing a Notre Dame jacket.  I figure she is here from not so far away Pittsburgh where Notre Dame, sadly, defeated my Northeastern University Huskies on Thursday.  I ask her if she attended the victory over my employer.

She looked startled and explained that she knows nothing about March Madness.  She is here in Columbus to support or coach--I did not know which as she exited soon afterwards--the Notre Dame fencing team that is here at Ohio State this weekend competing in championship matches.  She really had no clue about the basketball fortunes of her school's more well known sports competitors. She knows fencing.

And that is the way it is--it seems to me.  There are all these wonderful and separate worlds.  Yes, many are filled up this March with March Madness, but others are immersed in fencing, others in maybe square dance festivals,  a group no doubt is meeting somewhere to discuss coins or stamps, or pelicans.

When we are in these worlds we are nourished by them and look forward to interacting with like minded others.  And if we do not have such a world, it might be a good idea to find something that can make enthusiasm for life spike.

Night Owl

If I see 230 am, it is because I went to sleep at 10 and have been awakened for one reason or another.  I may glance at the clock at these instances and then do the half asleep man's stumble into the bathroom before returning to the bed and trying to make the most out of the rest of the night.

Last night was an aberration. The first game of the doubleheader at the Nationwide center in Columbus did not begin until 830. The second game did not begin until 11 am.  We emerged into downtown Columbus after, alas, Albany succumbed to Oklahoma and Dayton defeated Providence at close to 115 a.m.

And we were thirsty.  There are places, I discovered, that are open at that time of night.  We went to a tavern near our hotel at about 145 and observed the various characters who populated and had been populating the joint.  Our hope for some fare was reduced to sacks of potato chips and pretzels, but we were able to get a cold beverage before I saw 230 am.  And it was about that time that I hit the sack for my initial slumbering.

The games last night were interesting as was the fandom. Albany had a section with sedate old alums like ourselves, and kids who were wired. One particular fellow with a sign, was nothing short of a perpetual motion machine.  To my right in the arena was a 1980 graduate who had driven with his son the 8 1/2 hour ride from Albany, intended to watch only the Albany game, and then drive back that night.

The sad news for Albany was that Oklahoma had two guys the size of Oklahoma City that we could not stop. Also, every time we got on a mini run they would stick a three to puncture our energy and comeback hopes.  So, 69-60 and wait til next year.

The second game was fascinating to me at least.  Most of the Albany section left but quickly the seats (really good ones) were filled up by Dayton fans who had come down south from the cheap seats.  Dayton is only 67 minutes away from Columbus, so this game at supposedly a neutral site was like a home game for the Flyers.  And the joint was rocking.  A real advantage for Dayton.

They had several really strong players as did Providence.  I had the sense that the Albany game was like the jv warm up tilt for the varsity as the arena was not packed for the early game, but was shaking for the night cap even after midnight.  Dayton prevailed.

An amusing side bar was listening to the chants for the opposing teams.  For Dayton, Let's Go Flyers, Let's Go.  For Providence, Let's Go Friars, let's go.  One had to listen carefully.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Almost Heaven

The Albany State Great Danes, my alma mater, is the last one standing.  Since the tournament began all my other teams have been defeated: Northeastern, Wofford, and the University of Buffalo in thrillers and Manhattan in a tough match-up against surprising Hampton.

So now it is up to Albany.  My brother and I are in our hotel and will soon walk over to the stadium to join the other Great Dane fans and root for the purple and gold. It is unlikely that a 14 seed will defeat a 3, but we will cheer them on. Earlier today we went to a pub that has been identified as an Albany and West Virginia hub.  There we spotted Albany others in their garb and--despite the multi year differences in our ages--shmoozed about our alma mater and common history.

We were at the pub/hub when the West Virginia fans were watching their team defeat the University of Buffalo in a very close game.  The West Virginia fans were feeling very little pain by the end of the game.  I enjoyed hearing them chant for their team.  With the numbers of beers they seemed to be downing I imagine, win or lose, they would consider their spaces to be almost heaven.

Lots of good energy here in Columbus even if I don't have it. This morning seems like two days ago. The Albany game will begin at about 8 pm.  The second game at 10:30.  I doubt if there will be trouble sleeping this evening.   Since I am now getting senior citizen discounts at Dunkin Doughnuts without even asking for them, I might consider reconsidering my travel planning.

Albany will have to play a perfect game tonight to stay close.

Hello Columbus

In less than an hour I will board a small plane that will take me to Columbus Ohio. There, today, four March Madness basketball games will be played.

For the last few years instead of travelling to Las Vegas to "cover" the games, I have gone to game sites.  This year it is off to Columbus.

I left my home very early this morning because while the trip to the airport is, during off hours, a breeze, it is a stiff wind during rush hour.  I did beat the traffic but then had over two hours to wait for my diminutive plane.  And here at Logan airport at 745 a.m. it felt like Las Vegas because when I went to a restaurant for breakfast and sat at a bar for service, to my left and right were people knocking them back well before many in the greater Boston area have opened their eyes.

Both the University of Buffalo my grad school, and my undergraduate alma mater are playing in Columbus today.  So is Providence and in this waiting area are a couple of men adorned in Providence gear waiting for their flight.

If today's games are anything like yesterday's it will be a thrilling next 20 hours.  Upsets and near upsets.  Two sons of coaches winning games in the last minute for UCLA and Georgia State. Two 14 seeds have defeated 3 seeds. And, alas, my school came so very close to being a third 14 seed to beat a 3. We had the ball, behind by 2 with 20 seconds left but could not get off a shot.

Yesterday morning some interesting news was sent my way.  Apparently, there is a correlation between increased frequency of performed vasectomies and the first weekend of March Madness.   Not a joke. March Madness comes along and more men have vasectomies.

Probably affects the seeding.  (Dad: that was for you)

My predictions yesterday reflect both my wisdom and the reality that these games are unpredictable.  I won a grand total of one of the games I predicted. Today I like

Michigan State -5 against Georgia

San Diego State -4 at St. Johns

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Gentleman, Start Your Engines

Those who read the Madness of March know it is about my experiences in Las Vegas during the first four days of the NCAA basketball tournament. This year those days begin today at about 12:15.  I am not in Las Vegas this time around--though right now I miss the energy that I know permeates the sports books on the strip. Let me set the stage for you.

It is only about 7 a.m. in Las Vegas. Nevertheless people have been reserving seats in sports books for two hours or more.  At these seats or in nearby coffee shops clusters of bettors are poring over betting sheets considering where to place their bets.

At the front of the room there is a line of bettors waiting to place their money based on what amounts to a flip of the coin.  For example, the first game of the weekend happens to involve my school, Northeastern University. We are a 12 1/2 point underdog in our game with Notre Dame. If a bettor wagers on Notre Dame the fighting Irish will have to beat us by at least thirteen points.  And the bettors on line at the Bellagio and Ballys and Venetian right now are considering the chances of Notre Dame doing just that.  And will Kentucky beat Hampton by 33, (Yes) Can Wofford get within 8 of Arizona (Yes).  Will Stephen F. Austin get within 7 of Utah (No).

In Las Vegas despite the hour, it is buzzing and people now two hours and five minutes before tip off are nervously waiting for the games to begin. I relay in the Madness of March how I was sitting at a Las Vegas sports bar at about 9 am Pacific time. People were already imbibing.  When the games finally were about to begin one fellow--A Notre Dame supporter--rubbed his hands together and said to the others assembled at the bar: "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines."

People here at work in Boston are wearing red and black.  There are at least two viewing places at the University that have been set up for our 12:15 game.  Unfortunately, I am in a meeting from 12 until 130. I will be plotzing not being able to watch.

Several schools with whom I have affiliations are in this year's tournament.  The University of Albany, my alma mater, plays on Friday in Columbus as does the University of Buffalo where I went to graduate school.  Then there is us, Northeastern, playing today, and Wofford University where I have been and know the athletic director.  I've also worked with Manhattan College, but they sadly were eliminated in a play in game on Tuesday. And there is Harvard right across the river from where I sit. Harvard is in the tournament because of a bizarre set of circumstances in the last weeks of the Ivy League season.  They actually lost to Yale in what was considered a must-win game, but miraculously got an opportunity to play them again the following week and prevailed.

When I have done interviews--though I do not do many--about the book I am nearly always asked who I like. I am asked this, despite the fact that the book makes the case that (a) I am not a betting expert and (b) there can be no experts when you bet against the spread.  Despite this I regularly get this inquiry.

So, who do I like today

Wofford plus 7 1/2 against Arkansas
North Carolina -11 at Harvard
Baylor -9 at Georgia State (though the coach's son at Georgia State can shoot the three. Watch him get 20 plus today)
Lafayette + 23 over Villanova
Eastern Washington + 7 1/2 over Georgetown


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

They all know...

In the Madness of March I relay a conversation I had with a fellow I met at a Las Vegas casino who was holding court after he'd lost what he thought would be a sure bet wagering on Winthrop.

"...Winthrop" he began "...Winthrop!  Did they lay an egg or what? They play great against Notre Dame, raise up my hopes, and then they lay an egg. You know what it shows, don't you?"

"What does it show?" I ask him.

"You just don't know."

"You just don't know?"

"It just goes to show" he says and takes a very deep breath, "that you just don't know."

And that wisdom is the reason why there are lights on the strip in Las Vegas.  You just don't know. Yet people think they know, bet their shirts, come out shirtless, and ka-ching go the casinos.

Tonight I was positive. Just positive that Manhattan would pummel Hampton in the first game of the tournament. Had I been in Las Vegas I would have put down a large wager--for me--on Manhattan. I have seen Manhattan play live, and have watched them on tv at least twice.  They are tough, well coached and beat a very good Iona team to make it to the dance. Hampton finished the season under 500. So, Manhattan was sure to be a winner.

Except Manhattan lost.

My dad had a great expression when he heard someone making a claim that Dad knew or had discovered to be false.  He'd say:  "They all know. And they all know. And they don't know nothing."

This saying could apply to my betting wisdom.

Nevertheless, unless Kentucky is laying more than 28, take Kentucky and give up the points when they play Hampton on Thursday night.

Kentucky will not lay an egg. Kentucky would have to lay an omelette to lose to Hampton. Give up the points and count your shekels.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

how sweet it is.

Is Kentucky up to the challenge?

How Sweet is Revenge?

 The Whites is a new book by Richard Price about five New York City cops who each have a "white": a perpetrator who got away with committing a horrific crime.

The officers have been friends for twenty years.  All but one are retired yet all still are focussed on their individual whites. Each wants nothing more than to catch the killer and make him pay. In addition to the group of five, another policeman is featured in the novel.  This character's brother was murdered when he was a teen and the cop seethes with a desire to punish the person who caused his sib's death.

I read an interview with Price a few weeks ago.  He said he intended this book to be different from his others and be more like what is called a police procedural. And for at least this one reason Price uses the name Harry Brandt as nom de plume for The Whites.

"Brandt's" book is not quite a police procedural and more like a cross between a procedural and a typical Price complex detective/mystery with a message. Price is the author of Clockers which is brilliant and almost as good, Samaritan. He also wrote the screenplay for an excellent movie, Sea of Love, that starred Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin.   Price may have wanted to try his hand at writing a police procedural, but my guess is that as he got going, his inclination towards writing something more substantive took over.

Price/Brandt writes like the New Yorker he is.  if you don't like cop parlance or New York slang this might not be for you.  But it is a good book and the questions it raises hang around a bit.

  • Can you purge your demons by exacting revenge?
  • Are illegal behaviors always unethical?
  • Should a cop turn in another cop who breaks the law in an attempt to avenge an egregious act?
  • Is revenge a sweet purgative or a disabling illusion?

If these questions intrigue you and you like to read about New York City and grisly crime, you will enjoy The Whites.

Interesting aspect of The Whites is that the main characters are racially diverse, one of the five buddies is a woman, and one of the white cops has been married twice both times to women of color--and these facts are all irrelevant to the story.  Issues of racial and gender discrimination in police forces regularly surface in contemporary headlines, so it is refreshingly odd that Billy's integrated marriage is not referred to by any of his contemporaries and seems to be a non issue, and women have roles on the force in this novel that are not significantly different from the men.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Yesterday, for the first time since January, I spotted some grass in a corner of the front yard as I drove to work. Not much, but some.  When I got home later that night, nearly half of the snow was off of our roof.   Now, one can walk from the car to the side door without looking like a tightrope dancer as there is some asphalt beyond what I shoveled away throughout February.


Well, not quite. It was just above freezing today but still that is toasty.  Florida looms as an enticing locale after this stretch.  I typically like the seasons, but winter and the commute due to so many in Boston not trusting public transportation did me in.

Besides the weather changing some-at least for the time being--I found myself feeling elated on Monday night for reasons that only a sports fan can understand.  Northeastern, my university, earned an invitation to the tournament by defeating William and Mary.  Manhattan College and Wofford--two schools that I have familiarity with, also prevailed to be guaranteed a ticket to the dance. Finally, my alma mater is still alive and will go dancing if it can defeat Stony Brook on Sunday.

Strange, when you take a step back, to think about what can make one elated.  My day was highlighted on Wednesday when I spotted some grass on a lawn and could walk to the food mall at the university without a coat on.  And on Tuesday there was some spring to my step because teams that I root for are advancing in March Madness.

It does not happen a lot, but I was interviewed today because of March Madness. A fellow from a news agency asked me a number of questions about why people get so caught up in the tournament and can be glued to the television set for hours on end. (Today, a Thursday, there are over a dozen basketball games on. Next Thursday when the madness will be at its height, there will be sixteen games on the tube).

The short answer to the interviewer's question is this. People are enthusiastic about March Madness because sport can nourish the heart.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


It's a year now, dad.

It's been a brutal winter here. Just awful.  Four serious snow storms. Single digit temperatures have been the norm. Twice I had to call AAA to jump my car to get to work.

The last time I was in Florida the forecasters were predicting 40 degrees for the area and issuing wind chill alerts.  Today we are finally going to crack 40 degrees here in Boston and I think people are going to barbecue.

The Patriots won the super bowl. It was terrific.  An undrafted rookie made an interception at the goal line at the last minute.  Thrilling. Tom Brady--now no kid pushing 38--started jumping up and down like a happy child.  I guess, when you peel away the crud that accrues, we all have the potential for jumping up and down like a happy child.

Sam's kid will be having his bar mitzvah later this month, and Hillel's daughter will be married in April.  Your great grand kids are so gorgeous.

Bobby and I are doing okay.  I need a hip so look a bit like Walter Brennan in the real McCoys when I move around.  Biggest pain is in my head.  Once I get it done supposedly I will be able to play tennis again.  Otherwise, fine. Had my annual checkup and I am good to go.  Bobby's doing great. Saw him a few weeks back when I was snowed in, in New York.  Stayed at his house and we shmoozed and generally hung out.

People say you are in a better place when the subject comes up.  Don't think so. This is the place as far as I am concerned.  Send me a postcard and let me know if I am wrong.  (A little bit of your type of humor).

I hear regularly how you touched so many lives.  No surprise that. You certainly touched mine.  I miss you.

Friday, March 6, 2015

It is time.

It is time.

If you share living space with someone who is not a college basketball fan, and you are--it might be an opportunity for someone to take an extended vacation.

March, beginning today, will be a buffet of basketball that will fill up even the most serious fan.  The conference tournaments begin in earnest now. Tomorrow, one so inclined will be able to watch more than a dozen games without doing a whole lot except using the remote control

And the upsets have begun.  In the Big South the number one seed Charleston Southern coming into the game at 19-11 succumbed to Longwood who came to the tournament as a 9 seed at 11-22.  Charleston Southern is gone goodbye. They have no chance as in zero, of being invited to the Big Dance.

The tournaments that begin this weekend are for conference champions who can only get a ticket to the dance if they win.  Nobody from the Big South gets invited unless they win the tournament. The same is true for the America East and the CAA and probably the MAAC all conferences that will be playing this weekend.  My alma mater Albany State (now called UAlbany) is a one seed and finished 15-1 in the America East.  Lose on Sunday to New Hampshire and it's sayonnara.

(A sad day that would be for the the descendants of the august crew pictured below--my freshman Albany State basketball team circa 1967.  I showed this photo to two colleagues and neither one--who work with me daily--could pick me out).

My current university, Northeastern,  begins a quest to go to the dance tomorrow night playing in Baltimore against the University of Delaware. Lose its game then, or the next night, or on Monday and the players can go back to being full time students.

The MAAC is another conference with several strong teams: Iona, Monmouth, Manhattan, and Canisius.  Iona dominated during the regular season.  If it loses once in the next four days they are done.  And I think they will. I do not see Iona prevailing in the MAAC.

There are no fewer than 13 conferences playing tournaments this weekend and 18 more beginning tournaments next week.  Of the 13 playing tournaments now, only one conference--the Missouri Valley--is likely to obtain Big Dance invitations for more than one team.  Of the 18 starting next week 7 are almost guaranteed to get only one invite. This means that 19 tournaments will be played in the next two weeks at a frenzied level because only the winner gets to go to the NCAA tournament.

I may attend a few games this weekend. The atmosphere is so charged.  I will never forget a George Mason--VCU game a few years back.  The energy in the place was beyond what could be expected. Some of the Albany-Vermont finals in the America East have been similarly wild.

Some overall predictions:  Kentucky, Virginia, and Wisconsin will be three of the four teams in the final four.  Gonzaga will disappear sooner than later.   If Duke gets to the final four, it might be able to beat Kentucky.

That is all for now.  I have to make sure my remote is working.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dancing Contest

Happy Purim for those who celebrate the holiday.

It's March of 1974 or 75 or 1976.  I am in the campus center at the University of Buffalo not doing much of anything.

Norton Hall, at the time, had all-purpose rooms on either end of the rectangular building. In the basement there was a rathskeller that smelled, always it seemed to me, like a fraternity house after a beer party.  Upstairs where the all purpose rooms were, is where lectures and movies might be seen or organizations might reserve space for some kind of function.

In March of 74 or 75 or 76 I walk past one of the all-purpose rooms and see a sign for a Purim party.

Purim is one of those Jewish holidays that plays second fiddle to others simply because of when it takes place in the calendar. It is as significant as Chanukah but because Chanukah occurs around Christmas time, Chanukah is more well known.  Purim, like Chanukah, has a common Jewish holiday theme.  Some no-good-nik (in this case, Haman) tries to eradicate the Jews and despite bad odds, the genocide is thwarted led by a hero (in this case Mordecai).  Consequently a holiday celebrates overcoming hate and Jewish resilience.

Purim calls for a different sort of celebration than Chanukkah or Passover. During Purim, you are supposed to get drunk.   In the talmud it reads something like this:  one is to drink to the point of not knowing the difference between "cursed is Haman" and "blessed is Mordechai."   

So, it is 74 or 75 or 76 and I see the sign for a Purim party.  I am doing nothing, had forgotten it was Purim, and figure to show support for the tribe I should pay my entry fee and walk into the all purpose room for the party.  That I do.

It is quite a sight.  The organization that has sponsored the party is comprised of very religious folks.  There is a line of chairs down the middle separating the men from the women.  And on either side of the chairs--especially the male side, people are dancing wildly.

It appears to me that the men have taken the talmudic requirement quite literally.

After a while of chaotic "dancing", one of the celebrants gets up on a stage, grabs a microphone and announces to the smashed gathering that now, now they are going to have a "dentzing" contest.  He jumps down from the stage and resumes maniacally dancing. There is no contest. Just a bunch of guys swinging themselves around like mad.

This is not for me.  I leave the Purim party and the dentzing contest.

But I am glad I went.  Purim is a festive holiday, and you don't need to knock them back in order to enjoy it.

Besides a sense of having persevered and survived despite the odds, it gives us sweet cakes, the expression--a big megillah--and in some locales an excuse for a fun masquerade party.  

Happy Purim.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Cats and Dogs

The undefeated season of the Kentucky Wildcats will end tonight.  The Georgia Bulldogs will be victorious.


No good reason.  The Wildcats are so deep that their second team could probably defeat Georgia.  In the SEC tournament should the two collide in Nashville, Kentucky will prevail by 25.

But tonight in Athens with Kentucky having butchered their last five opponents, the Wildcats are due for a letdown.  Somewhere deep in their heads they know that if they are going to lose a game this year, this is the time to do it.  You don't want to lose in the SEC tournament and maybe relinquish an almost guaranteed one seed in the Big Dance.  You sure don't want to lose in the Big Dance where it is one and done.

So, this is the time to lose.

And for Georgia. They will be playing out of their skulls on senior night against an undefeated foe and annual rival.  Their season will be a successful one if they are the team to bring down Kentucky.

The spread is 10.  Georgia lost by eleven at Kentucky a few weeks ago.   The points are enticing, and likely a good bet but my sense is that if Georgia gets within ten they will win outright so I would take them on the money line.

I am not a Calipari hater. Actually, I have followed him ever since he won at UMass and, ironically, almost beat another powerful Kentucky team in the mid 90s.  Except for his brief stint as a pro coach, Calipari has won everywhere he has gone.  Yet, I think he knows it might be in his best interests to lose this game--not to tank--but that it would not be such a pogrom if the Dogs prevail.

Dogs over Cats tonight.