It's Monday and I'm off to a particularly slow start, just now reading the morning paper -- yes, a paper paper. Oh, I do read plenty of news online. But I start the day with the New York Times: crossword puzzle and then Arts, next the editorial and OpEd pages, then the special sections – Tuesday/Science, Wednesday/Dining, etc. – and finally, business and then the front national/international news section. I put the Sports section aside for my teenage son. Usually.
Today, however, I am going through the sports pages, doing a kind of homework, trying to learn something intelligent to say the teenager later. Having decided the other day that it's easier (or at least quieter) not to fight it, I've bought into The Bracket, and agreed that even in a household where television is normally banned in favor of homework on Monday through Thursday, college basketball may rule, at least for two weeks or so. I graduated from Syracuse University at a time when the Orange were a dominant NCAA team. I lived across the street from the legendary and decrepit Manley Field House. I was at the first game ever played in Carrier Dome. So you might think I know a thing or two about college hoops. You would be wrong.
But just to prove that I'm not hopeless, I asked the teenager over the weekend to explain this Bracket business to me, which created so much excitement in our house ("Mom's going to make a Bracket!"), that he flew up to my office to make copies of the Sports Illustrated fill-in-the-blank insert for all four of us. These are now posted around the kitchen in various stages of inked-in, crossed-out completion.
After listening to my son's careful and lively 20-minute explanation – the boy wants to be a sportscaster, after all – I knew what seemed like everything I needed to know in order to fill in my Bracket. Everything except which teams are good picks. But hey, if as my son said, the SI editors had already got it wrong ("busted their bracket"), I was game. So I grabbed a pen and got to work.
That is, I went down the list and picked out teams like so: I'll take Louisville (because of the Kentucky Derby), and Dayton (because we used to eat at the Dayton Inn in Clifton when I was a kid), Xavier because I like the way the word looks and sounds, Gonzaga because any team with that name needs any and all help, USC because I lived in Southern California for a while, and Perdue because I once had a crush on a Perdue-bound prep school boy, and Duke because well, doesn't the name Duke just make you think, winner?
Of course, Syracuse too. So what if it took me 20-plus years to take an interest in "my" team? It's also taken me a while also to understand that learning new meanings for some old words (like bracket) and relaxing a relatively new rule (no TV on school nights) in favor of some old-fashioned sports-craziness, can keep a teenager engaged and force a mom outside of her comfort zone to such an extent that she is seriously contemplating if it would be completely wrong to make a new copy of her Bracket and started over without telling the teenager.
And, it's taken me six paragraphs to figure out that today's post has absolutely nothing to do with writing or reading or the literary life. Sue me.
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