Thursday, March 23, 2017

Round 1

Today begins the second week of the tournament.  This blog post is about last week reflecting how up to date I am at this moment.

I flew to Florida for the first weekend of the tournament.  Since 2013, as opposed to going to Las Vegas to watch the games on tv, I have picked a venue and been a live spectator for one of the double headers. In 2013 Philadelphia, '14 Buffalo, '15 Columbus, '16 Brooklyn and this year Orlando.

The day started out gorgeous, but I missed the first half of the first game because the traffic around the AMWAY center was (predictably) congested.  By the time I parked and walked and found my seat UNCW had squandered its lead to Virginia.

I was sitting on the mooooon for the end of the first game and beginning of the second. I bought my tickets on stubhub and they were pricey.  For pricey I figured I would not have to buy oxygen.  Very tiny players on the court.  The good news was that from that vantage point you could really see the plays develop.  I don't think I have ever sat that high for a basketball game before and it was an educational experience. I could see why coaches might sit in the upper deck to look at some plays and players.

Three law students from the University of Florida were my neighbors.  Their school was playing in the second game of the doubleheader.  My immediate neighbor hailed from New Jersey, a Yankee, down below the Mason Dixon line to learn the law.  He sure knew his sports and it was a joy to converse with him about game histories.

UNCW was terrific but they could not defeat Virginia which just had better horses. Nevertheless UNCW worked hard up to the very end. Their reward is that their coach was snatched up by North Carolina State shortly after the defeat.

Florida had little difficulty taking care of East Tennessee State. The dogs in these first round games either come out like rabid pests intent to expend every ounce of their energy to upset a favorite, or like scaredy cats thinking despite how they posture that they have no business being on the court with an opponent. UNCW was like the former. ETSU looked like the latter.  Florida is a good team, but ETSU was outmatched from the word go.

Each school gets about 200 seats for the games and these dedicated seats are terrific.  I've bought directly from the schools in '15 and '16 when I had connections to the universities that were competing.  This time I could not get a seat in these sections so that is why I found myself in the stratosphere with the law students.  What happens, however, is that the spectators from the teams that play in the first game of the doubleheaders often leave when the second game of the doubleheader takes place.  During the first half of the second game, I was able to see from my vantage point on the moon that the Virginia section had a vacant row. So I moved down for the second half of the Florida game.    The seats for the second game were rich guy's chairs.

When I left the arena I found myself in a crowd comprised of those exiting the first doubleheader, and those waiting to get into the second doubleheader.  Very crowded.  The AMWAY center sits on Church Street. Walk down Church Street into town less than a 1/4 of a mile and you are on a road that was shut down--at least for this day.  It is a row of taverns on each side complemented by a row of outdoor taverns right in the middle of the street.  A church street it is not.  The place was jumping. My notion of Orlando was that it was Disneyworld and that was it.  This downtown area at least was quite tony.  I went beyond it to get some coffee so that I would stay awake for the ride home.  I found a Starbucks a few blocks away that was part of a very hoo hah hotel.  I saw some beautiful city greenery and buildings.  Maybe downtown Orlando begins and ends where I was, but it was impressive.

I woke up on day 2 feeling like a million bucks.  I was energized after watching parts of the night games on tv and on having been a spectator in the first round.  Went to a whirlpool, got some lox, eggs, and onions in a cafe (don't knock it if you haven't tried it).  Later, for the first time in the 15 plus months since my hip replacement I took a tennis ball to a handball court and really tried to retrieve the balls. Once last July I swatted a few back and forth with a crony who was similarly impaired. This time I was really whacking the ball and retrieving. I got tired but the ability to move was encouraging.

Then, an injury I have dreaded most of my adult life seemed to occur.  I went to hit a ball on what was going to be--really-my last exchange with the wall, and it felt like a brick was hurled on my calf. I turned around--no brick on my calf.  Then I remembered that this sensation is what all those who have achilles tendon ruptures experience.  Achilles tendon ruptures are terrible terrible injuries.  Usually takes a year to recover. For someone like me who eats like a gourmand and exercises so that I maintain something of a svelte look, the prospect of being immobile for a year means I can take my 34" pants and toss them out the window.  Plus I know I will be a sourpus and grouch.

When I got back to Boston on Monday I went to a doctor who, within seconds, told me I ruptured my Achilles tendon and would need a cast and be out of action from 6-18 months.  He gave me a boot told me not to walk on it and to use crutches.  I went for a second opinion. Number two said it could be more like weeks but he too thought it was an Achilles rupture of some sort.  I went today for a third opinion. This guy, to my wary delight, said it was a calf rupture and I would be better in 12 weeks and can walk on the boot.  So, who knows what it really is, but I am relieved to at least have one opinion that suggests that I will be able to get a cup of coffee from the kitchen without being an acrobat.

Before I got to Boston, but after the injury, I went on that Friday--the second day of the tournament-- to a sports bar. I was pretty glum as I was limping like an old man and looking like a limping old man. I figured going into a sports bar would buoy my spirits and besides watching the NCAA tournament for me is like doing research//my job.

I walk into the tavern and I see not sports zealots but face a wall of silly green--and realize that it may be the second day of the tournament but it is also St. Patty's Day.  Just great. Dancing, drunken green all around me. A woman with green tentacles is giggling and has a t shirt that reads, "I can drink that bitch under the table."  Who would buy such a shirt let alone wear it even on St. Patty's.  Every one but a few of the patrons had some martian green costume and the place was hopping around.  Some shmegeggi was also leading a Trivia Night contest.  This was no real sports bar on 3/17. People in this joint would not have known a basketball from a tangerine.

Tonight:  Take Oregon plus 1 over Michigan. Take Kansas -5 against Purdue. Take Xavier plus 7.5 over Arizona, Take Gonzaga -3.5 over West Virginia and run.

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