March Madness

I’ve been investing my time by watching the college basketball tournament the past three days, watching the game of most interest at the time. I say investing to avoid saying wasting my productive time.

I used to watch college basketball when I worked the afternoon shift as a UAW factory rat at GM. I’d get home and be all wound up from working and all there would be on TV after midnight was reruns of college basketball on ESPN. Back then ESPN had a deal with the Big East and I got to know them very well — the best players went to the Big East so they could be on TV regularly. In 1985, when Villanova won it all I actually predicted they would win before they were even selected for the tournament. Through their season I watched them progress from a pretty good team toward being truly amazing. People got sick of my talking about it but I became a sort of “expert” among my peers after that “Cinderella Story” took place. If Cinderella was red smoking hot when she met her prince then it was indeed a fairy-book basketball tale.

That lead to my gambling on sports for two years, sometimes heavily and eventually through an actual bookie. The most I ever paid out at one time was $2,100. I was smart, when I won I would keep the money in a cigar box and since I won early and often that cigar box got kind of full. I remember betting $500 on a Superbowl game and winning. I did that twice in a row. There were also enough times that I lost and after two years of gambling on pro and college basketball and football I actually broke dead even. Given the “juice” you have to pay when you lose, the odds were stacked against me. Given that bettors on sports games lose about 70% of the time I guess I had a lot of fun for free and actually did quite good.

Funny thing about gambling: when I stopped, watching sports lost all meaning. I used to love watching and understanding what was going on but once I had that extra stake and then let it go, it just wasn’t the same. These past few days I have been enjoying watching and not really caring who wins. Watch the feet of the guy with the ball, not where he is facing, and watch most of all what is going on away from the ball, that is where things are being set up.

There was one coach that really stood out while I was watching those college basketball games back in the mid 80’s. He was at Providence College at the time. They were nothing until he came along and all of a sudden they were contenders. Rick Pitino has made a career out of going to down and out teams and very quickly bringing them to the top tier, college and pro. Right now he is at Louisville and they are a #1 seed. I would not take that lightly if “my” team was in their path.

Am I “calling it”? Not at all. But I do know that a college program is more about the coach than about the players of the moment, and I think this guy is the best basketball coach currently in the game. I am watching them with acute interest.

And what about that Florida Gulf Coast team? Georgetown still doesn’t know what hit them. Such fun!

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