Given the title above, you might assume this is about the movie “Footloose,” based on events in 1978 in a small, religious town in Oklahoma where young people were forbidden to dance as it was feared it led to sin. Actually, what it led to was two hit movies, 1984 and 2011. (What other sports column gives you such useless trivia?) No, dear reader, today’s missive is about the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and my joy and or anguish at this time every year.
As I write this, UCLA has yet to play their first-round game against Kent State in the tournament, often referred to as “March Madness” or the “Big Dance.” For basketball fans this is the most exciting two weeks in the calendar. For me, it can lead to madness. (My critics might ask, “How do you tell the difference?”)
As a UCLA alum, and given the Bruins have won a record 11 NCAA Championships, I’ve had more than my share of happiness. Maybe it’s just me, but losing hurts more than the joy of winning is able to offset. This year’s Bruins (24-4) are a 3-seed, so, as I see it, they have to win the first two rounds (reaching the Sweet Sixteen) to break even, if that makes any sense, which I’m sure it doesn’t.
Speaking of basketball fans, none are ardent than Charles Andrews, fellow Daily Press columnist and renaissance man. Charles’ expertise includes the fields of : Music, politics, cooking, coin and currency collecting, fine whiskey and world travel, fresh from his trip to Iceland with his wife, Dian (no “e”) and to Cuba with Dian and their daughter Nicole.
Andrews writes “Curious City,” which appears every Wednesday and, like me, his two favorite college teams are UCLA and “anybody playing USC.” (Having instantly lost half my readership, I note that, on March Madness opening day, SC won a thrilling “play in” game against Providence, the 7th greatest comeback in tournament history.)
Andrews’ fondness for UCLA was enhanced a few years ago when mega-smart and talented Nicole graduated from UCLA with honors. (Forget “honors” I was lucky to walk out with a diploma.) But Andrews’ near obsession with the NCAA Tournament is far more intense than mine. I shall explain. (Though explaining Andrews is not always easy.)
First, in the name of full disclosure, I’m friends with the Andrews family who’ve had me over for dinner on numerous occasions. I don’t know if Charles considers himself a gourmet cook, but I do. And Dian, a professional singer and voice over actress, is Ocean Park’s version of Kate McKinnon from SNL, given all the voices she can do, including twenty years as Daisy Duck. In fact, the Andrews guest bathroom walls are literally covered with interesting Daisy memorabilia, including a thank you letter from Mr. Disney. To me, the Andrews family is a modern version of old Santa Monica: solid, charming and possessing great values. (If that doesn’t get me another dinner invite, I don’t know what will.)
But, come NCAA tournament time Charles turns into Howard Hughes, only without the money. He seemingly records the entire tournament and watches it on his big screen from beginning to end. What’s more, I’m not allowed to call lest it interrupt the action. I’m permitted to Facebook message and he calls back during halftime. Occasionally I’ve forgotten and called or even dropped by and I’ve gotten all the warmth a Jehovah Witness gets going door-to-door. (Okay, I’m exaggerating but, trust me, only slightly.)
A journalist throughout his adult life, Andrews’ only sport is basketball, which he dearly loves. He even plays pickup games in the neighborhood. His most “famous” opponent is legendary comedian and radio host Harry Shearer, who lives in Ocean Park when not in New Orleans. Charles and Harry have had epic basketball battles, though not to be confused with the legendary Magic and Bird one-on-ones. (“Given that analogy,” Charles asks plaintively, “which one am I, Magic or Bird?” I answer, “The way you shoot, neither.”)
The NCAA has come a long way from its maiden tournament in 1939 when only 8 teams played, as opposed to 68 today. Perhaps the biggest reason that March Madness has become a billion-dollar event is all the betting as fans nationwide fill out their brackets for often lucrative office pools. This year probably $10 billion will be wagered, or the GDP of several small nations.
In closing, please excuse the discursive nature of today’s Snide World. Obviously, I’m very nervous about my Bruins. I admire Coach Alford and every player on the team as they’ve competed so hard all season. As I pray to a higher power that they somehow get to the Final Four, I’ve got my fingers crossed. That would also explain any typos.
Jack also writes “Laughing Matters” which appears every Friday. He can be reached at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and email@example.com.